Stretching and Flexibility
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
With a body full of muscles, the idea of daily stretching may seem overwhelming. The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial. Aim for a program of daily stretches or at least three or four times per week.
Stretching once today won't magically give you perfect flexibility. You'll need to do it over time and remain committed to the process. It may have taken you many months to get tight muscles, so you're not going to be perfectly flexible after one or two sessions. It takes weeks to months to get flexible, and you'll have to continue working on it to maintain it.
Here are a few Stretches to incorporate into your routine:
(A) Step your right foot forward and lower into a lunge, placing your fingertips on the floor or on two firm cushions if your hands don’t reach.
(B) Breathe in, then, in one motion, exhale as you straighten your right leg. Slowly return to the lunge position. Repeat four times. Switch sides.
Standing Side Stretch
(A) Stand with your feet together and your arms straight overhead. Clasp your hands together, with your fingers interlaced and pointer fingers extended. Inhale as you reach upward.
(B) Breathe out as you bend your upper body to the right. Take five slow breaths. Slowly return to the centre. Repeat on the left side.
The Forward Hang
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your knees slightly bent.
(A) Interlace your fingers behind your back. (If your hands don’t touch, hold on to a dish towel.) Breathe in and straighten your arms to expand your chest.
(B) Exhale and bend at your waist, letting your hands stretch toward your head. Hold for five deep breaths.
The Low Lunge Arch
Step your right foot forward into a lunge and lower your left knee onto the floor or a folded towel or blanket.
(A) Bring your arms in front of your right leg and hook your thumbs together, palms facing the floor.
(B) Breathe in as you sweep your arms overhead, stretching as far back as is comfortable. Take five deep breaths. Switch sides.
The Seated Back Twist
Sit on the floor with your legs straight.
(A) Bend your right knee and step your right foot over your left leg. Put your right hand on the floor, fingers pointing outward, for support. Bend your left elbow and turn to the right, placing the back of your arm against your right knee. Inhale as you sit tall.
(B) Breathe out as you twist, pressing your arm into your leg and looking over your right shoulder. Hold for five breaths, then slowly return to the centre. Switch sides.