The Importance Of Stretching, Part 2

pugstretchingStretching is good. In Part 1 I told you why stretching is so necessary – our muscles are only designed to contract, and the injuries and lousy habits we develop over time lead to tensions that will pull us out of kilter and wear out our parts.

Stretching is easy! Lift one arm up high – you’ve just stretched your lats and rotator cuff. Keep the arm up and lean away from it – presto! You’re stretching your ribcage and quadratus lumborum. The fancy names don’t matter. What counts is that you do some stretching on a regular basis. There are plenty of books, videos, and websites – here’s one now – that will get you started with basic stretches.

There are a few simple rules to follow, too. Take it slow and gentle. Ease into a stretch. If it pulls, that’s good. If it hurts, that’s bad, and you should back off a bit. Stay there for awhile. Muscle fibers tend to loosen and relax within 30 seconds. The sheets of fascia that wrap around the muscles take longer, maybe a minute or two. Stretch both sides of your body equally, aim for balance.Stretching-l

A pleasant warning – stretching is addictive! Your body knows a good thing when it feels it, and you will be rewarded for your stretching endeavours by a freedom and physical delight you may not have felt in years. Use that delight to spur your efforts, and power your quest for more.

Enjoy the bounce and freedom and flowing vitality that you were meant to have. Help avoid falls, joint pain, aches and strains, headaches, stiff mornings, and the hundred other complaints of a body that can’t move. Stretching is the world’s best preventive medicine, easy, and fun. Al you need is a few minutes a few times a week to start reaping a lifetime of benefits.

Now’s a good time!

Published in: on December 30, 2014 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Importance Of Stretching, Part 1

Morning-StretchYou’ve woken up from a bad night’s sleep with a kink in your neck. Doing the same motions every day at work is starting to take its toll on your body. You don’t seem to handle the pace of your life as well as you used to, you’re always a little tense inside. And it’s getting harder to reach your shoelaces.

You need to stretch! As a massage therapist, it was the most common piece of advice I had for my clients. Muscular stiffness is one of the easiest physical problems to get – don’t prevent it and it will eventually happen – and the jobs, lifestyles and stresses of modern life do little to improve the situation. Fortunately, it is also one of the easiest physical problems to prevent, and the medicine is easy and enjoyable to take.

Muscles are designed to contract. The fibers they’re made of, when signalled by the nervous system, ratchet together and become shorter, with the cumulative effect of pulling bone A towards bone B with a great amount of strength and speed. Then, when their action is no longer needed, the impulses to the fibers stop, the ratchets let go their hold, and our muscles relax out to their former length – ideally.

But many of us have forgotten how to relax. Established postures, hidden stress, and the busyness of life ensure that our muscles don’t always let go, and we stay tense. Over time, tension settles into stiffness, like an elastic band gone brittle. And that’s when the problems begin. Stiff muscles and fascia limit the movement of our joints, which need movement to stay healthy; they limit blood flow, starving our tissues and messing with blood pressure; they reduce our natural agility, making us clumsy; and they rob us of vitality, for it takes energy to keep our muscles tight. Being stiff means that you don’t move well, not all your energy is available to you, and you’re more susceptible to illness, degeneration and injury than you need to be.bear-swimming

Stretching is really that important. Our bodies are wonderfully adaptive mechanisms, and will put up with years of abuse and neglect, but eventually the unstretched person will suffer from aches, pains, and reduced body functioning and vitality which can easily be regained. More next time on the benefits of a loose body, and suggestions for how to accomplish it.

Published in: on September 14, 2014 at 9:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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