By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim al-Muftah
If you stretch that makes me really happy, but I hope it’s on a continuous and consistent manner. If you don’t, then I hope you will change your mind in a few minutes.
Why is stretching important?
Flexibility, range of motion and posture: Stretching helps increase your flexibility and the range of motion of your movements and joints, simultaneously increasing your overall strength and stability. With an increase in your range of motion, you might possibly be open to do activities that your low flexibility limited you to not partake in before. Daily stretching also encourages bone alignment, helping support your posture and body positioning.
Blood flow, muscle recovery, and tension: Through stretching, you improve your body’s blood circulation and more importantly, to your muscles. This increase of blood and oxygen helps prevent muscle discomfort and aids in muscle recovery. Through this, you decrease tension in those areas of your body and in turn, relieve the stress as well. We all complain of back, neck and shoulder pain and/or body aches, but this is usually due to high stress on the mind as well. Our bodies react to emotional stress by tensing our muscles, therefore, increasing the blood flow to those areas is critical to reducing stress. So, imagine if you have physically put your body through stress such as a good workout, then it is necessary to stretch after as it supports muscle recovery and reduces that next day soreness.
Injury prevention and physical fitness: Stretching should really be a daily ritual if you are a dedicated athlete. By adding up all the benefits, we can conclude that if we stretch, we are able to potentially strengthen our muscle and joint health, leading to injury prevention and an overall improvement in physical fitness and performance.
Focus: As we stretch, we are focusing on the physical act of stretching and feeling that muscle’s pull releasing all that tension. While we are feeling that rush of blood circulation, we are one with our bodies and are one in that feeling. Our minds take a mental break as we listen to our bodies and help it unwind.
During stretching, breathing is extremely important. For example, when lifting weights, we all probably know to breathe out as we ‘push’ in the exercise and breath our as we ‘pull back’ in to the position. The same applies in stretching, before we stretch we should breath in and as we move into a stretch and then slowly breathe out as we push our muscles. This is why I would like to refer two maybe not so obvious examples of stretching: Muslim prayers and yoga. Praying five times a day, the body is given the opportunity to de-stress as the prayer movements are basically stretches if done thoroughly. Yoga is the Hindu discipline that is based on stretching, but then adds the spiritual element and meditation. Both examples referenced in spiritual beliefs confirms its potential to ease the body AND mind.
There is no excuse, you can practically stretch anywhere and anytime, so go on and literally push your own limits.
What are the basic guidelines to stretching?
1- Only stretch when your body is at least a bit warm, not when you are cold
2- Hold each stretch for as long as you can until you work up to the minimum of 15 seconds
3- The stretch session should range from 5-10 minutes (full body)
4- You should stretch daily, but to start, stretch 2-3 times a week
5- Do not stretch if you are injured or have any disability in that area
6- Do not stretch until pain, only until you feel the pull
7- Do not overstretch
8- Do not add bounce to the stretching movement
9- Stretch for a maximum of 30 seconds
10- Beware of partner stretching
11- Be sure to change up the types of stretches as to not overstretch a particular muscle in a particular manner
* The author is a wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.
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