Stretching is a magical place that holds the fountain of youth. I think most of us go around thinking that someday we will work on our flexibility but we just never get around to it. There is so much fear about the act of stretching that procrastination is a guarantee. Becoming flexible is a process that takes effort on a regular basis and the longer you wait to start the harder it will become. The benefits of stretching can be felt immediately and help prevent injuries, especially as we age. It can help relieve muscle pains and prevent bone loss along with many aliments like arthritis. I also believe a flexible body, creates a flexible mind. Staying optimistic and agile as time goes on is necessary for graceful aging. Start with simple stretches like reaching for your toes and set goals like full hamstring stretches called the splits.
Here are some ways that you can best incorporate stretching into your life:
1. Always stretch pre and post work out. Before you work out, it is a good idea to stretch to prevent muscle injury but after you work out is when you can create length in your muscles. After a work out, your body is already warmed up and primed for a deeper stretch. This is when change happens. That is one of the reasons why people love yoga, because your body gets so heated that by the end of class you are able to stretch deeper than you ever have before.
2. Stay with it. Find the balance between contentment and discomfort. It should never be unbearable pain. Pull back if so and stay for at least 30 seconds on each side, so that the muscles have time to lengthen. Slight discomfort is when the transformation happens.
3. Breathe. Focus your breath into the tight areas and release with each exhale. Try to refrain from tensing up and learn to let go.
4. Epsom salt baths. After you take a hot bath, before you go to bed. Lay on your back and stretch your leg towards your nose, one leg at a time. Start with using a towel around your foot and slowly walk your hands up the towel until one day, you won't need the towel.
5. Pace yourself. Each time you stretch, your muscles lengthen and with consistent work, they will remember and it will get easier. Progress takes an effort. Just like lifting weights and building muscle. The muscles need to stretch to remain flexible.
* Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.- Unknown