Stretching is an excellent tool used to increase flexibility. As a regular addition to any massage, training, or activity program, stretching can help you avoid injury while increasing the development of body awareness, reduce muscle soreness, and promote mental and physical relaxation leading to a calmer and more centered you.
If you are new to stretching and don’t know how to go about incorporating it into your schedule, to start out it’s recommended to write out your desired stretching routine to keep you motivated. By writing down and articulating your motivations and goals you hope to achieve, this will aid you in adhering to your program when you ask yourself “what am I doing this for again?”
Next, set aside time you would like to implement your routine. Try to devote at least ten minutes a day, two to three times a week to start out. The best times to stretch are typically before or after exercise. If you aren’t just starting or finishing an activity, it is recommended to walk, jog, or bike for five to ten minutes before stretching so your muscles are warm. You don’t want to try and stretch cold muscles!
When stretching, try to target major muscle groups that you routinely use at work or play. Focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back and neck and shoulders. It is also key to remember to be stretch both sides of your body. If you work on something on your left, make sure to stretch the same muscle on the right. This will promote bodily balance.
Be sure to stretch slowly and not to bounce. You should stretch to a point you feel tension but not pain. This means if you can’t touch your toes, don’t force it! Gradually increasing your flexibility will eventually enable you to reach further.
Once you establish a routine, and stick with it a few weeks, pay attention to how your body responds. Benefits of stretching include improved circulation, better posture, a sense of relief from stress and greater range of motion, which in turn can quiet body aches and pains.