Stretching – it’s so underrated. Most of us stretch out a little before we go for a run, or perhaps after an intense HIIT class, but we don’t all do it enough! Stretching is a key component of all Pilates moves, as this stretch allows your muscle fibres to lengthen, giving you a greater range of movement as you move your body into a particular pose.
Whether you’re going to do something overly active or not, you should always start your day with a series of stretches to loosen up your muscles and prepare them for activity before you make any sudden movements. And by sudden, I am talking about the first things you do when you wake up in the morning: getting out of bed, bending down to pick something up, brushing your teeth even – they’re all really simple movements and if you make the wrong move then you can easily strain a muscle that isn’t quite ready for it. With age our muscles become tighter and therefore there is less range of movement in the joints, which is what makes your everyday activities more of a challenge over time. By incorporating stretching into your daily routine – when you first wake up and periodically throughout the day, you will be making a big difference when it comes to general mobility and overall wellness.
Basic stretching provides a whole host of benefits including:
1. Relaxation. We all know that yoga has many benefits, and relaxation is one of them, particularly with Hatha yoga. So try a few stretches, do a series of yoga poses and you’ll see how good it feels to hold those stretches as you move deeper into each pose.
2. Reduced muscle tension. Tight muscles mean tense muscles, and you want to loosen them up a little and let them relax. By stretching them out, you release this tension on your body, which will also help with overall range and mobility.
3. Increased circulation. As you stretch out your muscles, you increase blood flow to those areas, pushing more oxygen-rich blood around the body and to the extremities, which is always a good thing.
4. Improved posture. When your muscles are stiff, you find yourself hunching, or slouching, or contorting your body to favour that muscle tension. When you stretch it all out, you lengthen the muscle fibres, relaxing them, allowing you to bring your body back into a more natural alignment, which is great for your posture.
5. Reduced stiffness and soreness. Nobody likes that muscle ache you feel the day after an intensive session at the gym, so remember to stretch before and after your workout as this may help to alleviate the effects – though this is debated, so often a gentle warmup is also advised.
There is a lot to be said for stretching and the sense of relaxation and awareness that it brings to the body, as you feel different muscle fibres tighten and lengthen with different moves. To find out more about the importance of relaxation on the body check out the following feature that highlights 5 Benefits Of Taking Time Out.