words by Molly Jennings
When was the last time you stretched? And no, holding on to a park tree attempting a quickie quad stretch before your run does’t count! Seriously though, when was the last time you rewarded your body with a relaxing, stretch sesh in the evening? As an ex-ballet dancer, I have seen the amazing benefits stretching can have on the body, the obvious one being increased flexibility. But there’s more to stretching than being able to touch your toes!
Stretching, if nothing else, is incredibly relaxing, making it a perfect thing to do just before bedtime, as tension in your mind as well as your muscles can make it very difficult for you to get a restful nights sleep. If you find it hard to wind down after a busy day or struggle to fall asleep, have a bubble bath to warm your muscles and set aside 20 mins for some gentle stretching before you turn the lights out.
TRY: Cat Stretch
Digestion is super important when it comes to our health. Poor digestion can cause many aggravating problems such as IBS, constipation, severe bloating and nasty stomach cramps. Stretching can be used as an effective, non-invasive way to get those intestinal muscles in gear and kick-start your digestion. By stretching out your stomach, you can release a lot of pressure and wind. It will also increase blood flow to your digestive tract and stimulate it so digestion is more efficient.
TRY: The Cobra
Yes, you read that correctly. Stretching can give the appearance of looking younger. When we stretch a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid is released from the cavities of our joints. This fluid cushions and reduces friction between our joints which can help avoid joint pain associated with aging. Stretching can give you a spring in your step at any age!
TRY: Glutes Cross-over Stretch
Bad circulation can leave you feeling tired and zapped of energy. Other common symptoms include headaches and pins and needles in your hands and feet. Stretching is a really simple way to improve blood circulation to the muscles. The benefits of increased blood circulation bring nutrients to our muscles and helps remove waste byproducts. So it’s really beneficial to stretch when you want to do a detox as it’s a great way of flushing out toxins from your body.
TRY: Downward Dog
Any rehabilitation program often includes some form of stretching. Stretching is used to maintain muscle flexibility and fluidity if you are recovering from an injury. It’s also used to prevent shortening and tightening of your muscles due to scar tissue. Injuries can leave your body imbalanced so stretching is a great way of retraining muscles to go back to normal to create a correct a symmetrical movement pattern. NOTE – Please don’t stretch until you have been advised so by your physiotherapist