by Shimeng Gao (3rd year Physical Therapy Doctorate student, Mount Saint Mary's University)
Why is stretching so important?
Improve your flexibility: Flexibility is an essential factor in determining one’s overall health. It allows you to move your joints throughout the whole range of motion freely and keeps the muscles around the joints more elastic in order to move better.
Increase blood flow: Your stretching regimen will help blood circulation in the area to prevent muscle soreness after an intense workout and shorten your recovery time. Adequate blood flow will also help you to gain the awareness in certain areas of the body to increase performance.
Correct your posture: As we live in this forward reaching world (i.e. typing in front of a computer, driving a car, etc.), our heads tend to move forward, causing the shoulders to round and back to slouch. A specific stretching routine will help us to lengthen these tight muscles from a bad posture and correct the muscle imbalance from prolonged sitting.
Calm the mind: Stretching is also a great way to unwind your day with deep breaths. It simply creates a space for you to LISTEN to your body. Being in tune with your body and practicing deep breathing exercises allow us to calm the mind and restore our energy.
When should I stretch?
It depends. Rule #1 is to create a time slot and space that’s easy for you to adhere to the stretch routine consistently.
Mornings are great for dynamic stretches before your workout to warm up the muscles and lubricate the joints. Evenings are more suitable for static long hold stretches that will help you to release the tensions from a work day and bring the attention inward to focus on yourself.
Here are 3 stretches that I recommend you do everyday!
1. Floor Pec Stretch (great for posture, shoulders and neck issues)
2. Segmental Cat & Cow (back pain saver)
3. Pigeon (definitely try this if you sit for more than 6 hours during the day)
Please reach out for more yoga stretches to add to your everyday practice!