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Stretching is a really underrated activity that is so simple, yet beneficial to our overall wellbeing. You can tackle almost every part of your body functioning with dedicated stretches and almost see immediate improvements!
1. Drink plenty of water: our joints are cushioned by what is called Synovial Fluid and a component of that is water. Drinking water before a stretch will help joints become more flexible, enabling you to reach full stretching capacity.
2. Breathe: it is a common misunderstanding that you should hold your breath while stretching. In fact, the inhale before a stretch will bring oxygen to the joint, and the exhalation is when you should encourage that further stretch while your joints have the fuel. Breathe deeply in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth.
3. Concentrate: while stretching always think about the part of your body that you are stretching. I know it may seem obvious, but it does happen that we have other things on our mind and we just do the stretch to get it over with. Treat stretching like meditation for the body. Zone in on the area and you will reap more benefits.
4. Don’t overdo it: Stretching is not about trying to reach full capacity the very first time. Your ligaments and muscles have memory and if you start slowly and steady you will achieve a much deeper stretch. Diving right into it on your first attempt will only result in a strained muscle, and that is very uncomfortable.
5. Brace your core: rather than sucking your tummy in, try instead to brace your core. Imagine a ball was coming right for you in your midriff - that reaction is bracing your core. This will help strengthen your core muscles and your balance while stretching. Remember to let it all out again after your stretch!
Stretching for Waking:
Nothing beats a good morning stretch. But why do we do it, or should do it? All night we have been lying down in a deep slumber, not moving much (ideally, anyway). When you wake up you should do a conscious body check-up.
Start with your toes and feet, up to the knees, your pelvic, gut, neck, stretch out your arms, considering your elbows, wrists and fingers. Keep your eyes closed and think about each part you are stretching. This should rid of any rigidness built up overnight.
Stretching for Running:
I learned the sore way the importance of stretching before running. I hadn’t planned to run but my fast walk turned into a jog which turned into a final sprint home (I was very proud!). But the next day my legs, notably my quadriceps, were not functioning very well. They were sore. I did not stretch!
Even if I don’t plan to run, I do these stretches just in case:
Very simple, stand on your right leg (hold onto a chair or a wall) and grab your left ankle with your left hand, bring it behind your back and hold it like that for 3 seconds, taking deep breaths in through your nose and exhaling slowly out through your mouth.
Repeat the process on the opposite side, and do the repetition once more for good measure.
Stretching for Work:
If you work on your feet you should take a pause every few hours and give your body an overall stretch. Give your ankles a few turns, bring your arms across your chest and up over your shoulders. Even though you are moving this stretch will remind you that everything is functioning ok, especially if you do the same short distance repeatedly.
If you work sitting down stand up every hour or so and stretch your ankles, your wrists, and bring your arms high over your shoulders. Little by little, bring your arms further back while looking up at the ceiling, but be careful not to fall! Also very important to stretch your neck muscles: look left and hold for 3 seconds, and look right and hold for 3 seconds.
Stretching for Sleep:
Sometimes our minds want to go to sleep but our bodies do not. For my nighttime pre-bed stretch I usually do an inverted stretch. I bend my knees and dip as low as possible, then I hug my knees with arms. This is a more relaxed stretch and I take my time breathing, like a meditation. I slowly stand up again concentrating on my knees, reach up, and give a big yawn. I don’t know if it is exactly that that helps me sleep, but I do sleep afterward.
Yoga is very much all about stretching. Each pose is a stretch that your hold while breathing the right way. If you are interested in learning more about yoga check out this blog here: Beginners Guide To Yoga
I hope these tips will help you! As our mind is surcharged with our daily tasks, let us not forget our body that is getting us through the days.
Keep Healthy & Keep Happy