When was the last time you stood up for a nice long stretch? If you can't remember, it might be time to start stretching more often! Stretching has a host of benefits for both your body and mind and can help you feel better in just a few minutes.
One of the main benefits of stretching is that it can help improve your flexibility. This is important for overall health and movement and can help prevent injuries in the future. Stretching can also help relieve muscle tension and pain, as well as improve circulation and increase energy levels.
But stretching isn't just good for your physical health - it can also benefit your mental well-being. Stretching has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and sleep quality, and boost cognitive performance.
And there are a few different types of stretches (or stretching methods) you can try that may work best for your particular lifestyle:
ACTIVE / STATIC STRETCHING
Active or static stretching is the most common type of stretching. This is where you hold a stretch for a certain amount of time, using nothing but the strength of your body. This method is good for improving flexibility, where you actively move your muscles and joints through their range of motion. This type of stretching is good for warm-ups and cool-downs and can be done pretty much anywhere. Active stretching is commonly seen in various yoga practices.
Sample Stretch – Leg lift: Lying on your back with both legs straight, raise one leg into the air, keeping it in a straight and relaxed position. Then pull the leg toward the head until you feel a greater stretch.
Dynamic stretching is also good for warming up before exercise, where you move your muscles through their range of motion but don't hold the stretch. With things like controlled leg and arm swings or torso twists, this method aims to gently improve reach and speed of movement, nearly pushing your range of movement to its limits. Dancers and martial artists will typically use this method while warming up.
Sample Stretch – Walking lunges: From a standing position, step forward with one leg, ensuring the knee does not go past the ankle. Then stepping forward, coming back to a standing position where you’d repeat with the opposite leg.
Also known as relaxed stretching, passive stretching is where you use a tool or another person to help you stretch your muscles. This type of stretching is good for deep stretching and can be done either before or after exercise. This is where you use external force to stretch your muscles, like with a partner or stretching strap.
Sample Stretch – Doorway stretch: While standing in a doorway, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle with palms facing forward, then press your palms into the doorframe. Then proceed to step forward with one foot, stretching your shoulders and chest, holding the position for up to 1 minute. And then repeating with the opposite foot forward.
You see, stretching is one of those activities that we all know we should be doing but probably don’t commit to as much as we’d like. But when life gets busy, it’s a fantastic tool to relieve stress and increase energy. Engaging in some mindful movement will help you to slow down, decompress, and reset, so give it a try!
The key here is to infuse mindfulness into your stretching movements to experience the greatest benefits. And here’s the thing, certain mindful practices aren’t for everyone. So if you’ve tried your hand at meditation, for example, and it’s just not for you, stretching is a fantastic alternative that aligns the body and mind mindfully.
And the great thing about stretching is that you can either set aside some time each day for a dedicated stretching session – even just a few minutes each day works wonders or simply add some stretching movements to your regular exercise routine.
And when stretching, be sure to focus on your breath and move slowly and mindfully. This will help you get the most out of your stretching session and experience the full range of benefits stretching has to offer. So if you're looking for a way to improve your body and mind, stretching is a great place to start, and I highly recommend it.
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