Massage Therapy, Self-care, Wellness

5 Ways to Improve Flexibility

STRETCH (1)Incorporating stretching into your wellness routine has numerous benefits for your body and mind. Here I will discuss my top 3 reasons why everyone can benefit from stretching and 5 easy-to-do stretches that target major muscle groups that are most likely tight right now (hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, calves, and chest).

Top 3 Reasons Why:

  1. Decrease back pain– the culprit of most low back pain is due to hypertonic hip flexors and hamstrings. To help release pain experienced in your low back, incorporate stretches for the hamstrings and hip flexors.
  2. Increase joint range of motion– with your joints working at their optimal range of motion, you can more easily complete daily tasks like reaching to put something on the top shelf, or bending down to pick up your shoes.
  3. Heighten awareness between body + mind– when you stretch, you’re engaging your mind by focusing on a specific area of the body. As you stretch, you might start to notice how that joint and the surrounding muscles feel. Gentle stretching “wakes up” all the little muscle fibers to move a muscle beyond its normal resting position.

Guidelines for stretching

  • Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times per stretch
  • Do not stretch your muscles or joints past their normal range of motion
  • You should feel a slight pull on each muscle as you stretch (you shouldn’t feel any pain)
  • Always listen to your body and stretch when your muscles are warm
  • Deepen your breath, and focus on lengthening your exhale, OR just breathe normally.

5 stretches you can do anywhere:

The following stretches are simple and easy to incorporate into your daily routine. If you’re not a daily stretcher, you can reap the benefits by stretching 2-3 times per week.

uttanasanaseated_forward_bendHamstrings – standing forward fold, or seated forward fold.  For either option, hinge at your hips, extend your spine and bend forward. You might keep your knees slightly bent. The goal is not to touch your toes, but to find a position where you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your upper thighs.

9-Back-of-Leg-StretchQuadriceps – Standing up, grab your right ankle with your right hand, bend your knee and bring your heel to your butt. Keep your hips squared forward, and your knee pointing down toward the ground.

hip-flexor-stretchHip flexors– To stretch your left hip flexors, lunge forward with your right leg, lower your left knee and lower leg to the ground, resting the top of your foot against the floor. Tuck your tailbone, gently press your hips forward, bending deeply into your right knee, making sure your right knee does not move past your right toes. You might cushion your left knee by placing a towel, mat or blanket underneath it.

calf-stretchCalves– From standing position, take a step forward with your left leg, lean into a wall for support by placing both palms against the wall at shoulder level. Bend your left knee, and press through your right heel, keeping your right leg straight.

chest-doorway_stretch_towardChest– I love this stretch! Use a doorway, place both arms at 90 degree angles on either side of the doorway. Lean forward until you feel a slight stretch in your upper chest muscles.

 

Tara Shultis, MA, LMT, RYT

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