STRETCHING

the_art_of_stretching_curated_health

I once heard someone say, that tension in your body is like having food in your teeth. And what's the obvious resolution to that? Grabbing a toothpick, of course. But why don't we do this with our body? Not stretching is like have food stuck in your teeth and not using a toothpick.  A little gross, but gets the point across!

Stretching_curated_health

Stretching is vital to your overall wellness and is essential to a well rounded and healthy exercise routine. Stretching helps increase circulation, which is important as we age.  As we get older our bodies begin to get stiffer, which causes us to become less mobile, stretching can certainly combat this. Another benefit of stretching? Endorphines!  Endorphines are a mood booster, and stretching has been shown to be an awesome endorphine-promoting exercise.  So what does this mean? Stretching improves your mood, which means that you should be stretching everyday. I know...one more thing you have to do, but the beauty here is that you can sneak this in virtually anytime! Brushing your teeth? Stretch. Waiting for the shower to warm up? Stretch. Or even sitting at your desk, there is always an opportunity to get your stretch on! I am sharing some of my favorite stretches below.  But, before we get to those, let me give you a few things to keep in mind when stretching.

THE ART OF STRETCHING TIPS:

+ Breathe while you are stretching. 

+ Aim to address the tension in your muscles. You should not be in pain while stretching.

+ Don't bounce while you are stretching.  If you are bouncing that means that you are stretching at a point of discomfort.  If this is the case, try not to be so aggressive with your stretch.  Ease it back a bit, breathe, relax and then go back into the stretch.  Continue to do this then you will eventually be able to stretch further and deeper. Also, bouncing while you stretch can actually result in injuring your muscles and make your muscles tighter!

+ Hold your stretch for 30 seconds.  According to the Mayo Clinic, when stretching problem areas you may need to hold the stretch for at least 60 seconds.

Try out the stretches below and make a commitment to stretch each day. Just five minutes of stretching can totally change how your body feels and how you tackle the day!

hamstring_curated_health_coach
 

Do you find yourself sitting for an extended period of time? This could be at a desk, in the car or on a plane.  If so, there is a pretty decent chance that your hamstrings could use a little love and affection. Here is a good stretch for that much needed attention.  Truth be told, I can sometimes be found stretching my "hammies" in bed, remember, any little bit helps! Take your time and ease in the stretch.  Don't force it.  

hamstring_stretch_curated_health_coach
hamstring_stretch_curated_health_coach

To do this stretch:

  • lie on your back and raise one of your leg as high as you can without being in pain.  You should keep your pelvis flat on the ground. 
  • hold your thigh to attempting to bring the leg toward your head.
    • you can get a two-for-one if you flex your foot; this action will encourage a stretch in your calf muscle as well
  • Relax your muscles a bit, then go back into the stretch. You should find that you can go a little further this second time.  Repeat this action on the opposite leg. 
calf_stretch_curated_health_coach
 

The calf is a muscle of importance for me.  I suffer from foot issues due to a combination of genetics and wearing 5 inch heels to work and play, and those two things put unnecessary stress on my calves! Stretching your calves is important as this muscle is the often the one that is most utilized and often forgotten.  Do you suffer from knee pain? Often times tight calves can be the culprit.  Here is just one stretch that will help your calves out.

calf_stretch_curated_health_coach
calf_stretch_curated_health_coach
 
calf_stretch_final_position_curated_health_coach
 

To do this stretch:

  • start on your knees with your ankles crossed (left over right) and hands flat on the ground.
  • pushing your weight onto your hands and pushing off the balls of your feet pike yourself up. (if you are a yogi this will look similar to downward facing dog)
  • Hold this stretch for the appropriate amount of time and then return to the starting position and place the right ankle on top  of the left and repeat the stretch. 
    • if this stance feels too aggressive walk your hands out taking them further away from your feet.
glute_stretch_curated_health_coach
 

Do you sit most of the day? If the answer is yes, then your glutes are putting in major work!  If you ask me, nothing is quite better than a nice glute stretch, other than a nice cocktail at the end of a hectic work-week! Here are two of my favorite glute stretches.

glute_stretch_curated_health_coach

To do this stretch:

  • start on your back and place your right ankle over your left knee
  • place your hands under the left knee and pull the leg toward your chest
    • utilize your right elbow to push give a bit of resistance to the right knee if you would like a deeper stretch, or pull the left knee nearer to the chest
    • you should feel this in your right glute

 Repeat on the opposite side to stretch your left glute.

 
glute_stretch_curated_health

To do this stretch:

  • stand straight up and bring your right ankle toward your chest, while using the left leg to balance.

This is somewhat an advanced stance, as it requires good balance.  You can most surely modify this by sitting on the floor "Indian style," and pulling one foot toward your chest as shown above. Make certain you have good posture or you won't get the best stretch.

 
 
hip_flexor

Another victim of sitting for long periods of time, the hip flexor.  Many of us have tight hips that cause us discomfort.  This can be addressed by adding hip flexor stretches to your mix. The stretch demonstrated below is a common and an easy one used to tackle this problem area!

hip_flexor_curated_health
 

To do this stretch:

  • start on your knees, lunging the left knee forward.
  • make certain that you are contracting your glute on the down leg and engaging your core
  • lean slightly into the knee that is up, attempting not to tilt your pelvic bone
  • switch legs and repeat
iner_thigh_stretch_curated_health_coach
 

Your inner thighs can be plagued by sitting for extended periods of time and poor posture.  You can use my favorite stretch to address this issue.  The straddle stretch will work on your inner thighs, groin area and your hamstrings.  That is a lot of bang for your buck!

inner_thigh_stretch_curated_health
inner_thigh_stretch_curated_health_coach

To do this stretch:

  • start on the floor with your legs to your side, as far as you can tolerate.  
  • ideally you will want to sit straight up, utilizing good posture
  • to get a deeper stretch attempt to take your chest closer to the ground, keeping your back neutral
stretching_the_arm

This arm stretch addresses the tricep and the shoulder. This stretch can absolutely be done virtually anywhere!

arm_stretch_curated_haelth
 

To do this stretch:

  • place your palm between your shoulder blades, making sure to keep your inner bicep as close to your head as possible.
  • take your opposite and free hand and place it on your elbow, pulling it slightly toward your head
  • hold it for the appropriate amount of time and then repeat with the other arm

Remember, you will benefit from adding stretching to your routine.  It is a natural lubricator for your body and keeps you moving fluidly. Stretching is even more important if you prescribe to a regular workout schedule.  Think of stretching as a spa treatment for your muscles, one that doesn't need an appointment or require you to pay a gratuity!


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