Feb 202011

DVD Cover for Susan Dawson-Cook's Personal Best Stretch

DVD cover for Personal Best Stretch: Move Better Than Ever

Life gets crazy sometimes, which can really take a toll on our moods, health and emotional and spiritual equilibrium. One way to manage stress is to engage in activities that relax mind and body. Stretching is one wonderful way to decompress.

Stretching not only lengthens muscle tissues, but also releases toxins that build up in the muscles and incites an overall relaxation response. Take nice deep breaths when stretching to enhance the relaxation experience. Nothing is more restorative to the body than a deep cleansing breath!

Below are some suggestions on how to optimize your stretching experience:

1) Be comfortable – Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes, lose the shoes and make sure the room temperature feels right. Avoid stretching right after a meal or when hungry, which can distract from the experience.

2) Breathe, breathe, and breathe – Focus on breathing as you go along, ensuring each breath is deep and restorative. Fill the lungs with fresh air on each inhale and then expel the deoxygenated air on each exhalation. It also helps to think about “letting go” of stressful thoughts and sensations of stress as you exhale (for example if you have a headache or stomach ache for example).

3) Avoid rushing. Hold stretches for 30 to 60 seconds. This will enable the muscles to relax.

4) Take it easy. Some people think if it doesn’t hurt, its not effective. Not true! Only stretch to a point of lengthening, not pain. If you go in to fast or too far, you risk causing injury or inhibiting a relaxation response in the muscle.

5) Emphasize muscles used during exercise or overstressed during the work day. If you have limited time, focus on stretching where it’s needed most.

6) Focus on problem areas. If you notice more tightness on one side of the body than the other, work on that. If there is a major discrepancy in flexibility, it can result in dysfunctional movement patterns, leading to discomfort and pain. If you have tightness that causes discomfort in certain areas such as the lower back, be sure to stretch those muscles more often.

If you make a habit of stretching daily, it is likely to become something you look forward to. I look at stretching as a small gift I give to myself.

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