There are plenty of health and exercise myths out there – and whenever someone asks me about yoga, the issue of flexibility always comes up. First off, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga, but practicing yoga on a regular basis can help you to become more flexible and certainly more centered.
Breathe, Don’t Bounce
While you’re stretching, whether in the middle of a yoga class or just doing simple stretches at home or after a long run, don’t bounce. This can put serious strain on the muscle and cause unwanted muscle pain. Maintain slow in-and-out breathing through the nose the entire time you stretch, even if you feel a little discomfort. If you feel serious or sharp pain, back off, you’ve gone too far.
Stretch Your Work Out
One of the main reasons people don’t become more flexible in their workout routine has to do with the length of time they stretch. Five minutes is a good place to start, but most people I see in my pilates and private gym stretch for less than two minutes per workout. Stay longer in the stretch, starting with five slow breaths in and out for each stretch. You can also take a mini stretch break in the middle of your workout (if you’re not in a class) to integrate even more stretching. Be sure to do both sides of the body to protect the back and give you that balanced, relaxed feeling.
Do you have a problem area when it comes to flexibility? Sit on the floor in your living room, practicing the position that’s most challenging – at least 5 minute every day, in addition to your current routine!
What’s the Point to Stretching?
Most people associate flexibility with being athletic or graceful, but do not realize that there are amazing benefits that come from regularly stretching muscles, joints, and tendons.
Even if you are in “shape”, having tight muscles could set you up for injury during your next workout. Running, weight lifting, and aerobics are all great forms of exercising as long as you can counterbalance these workouts that really tightened up muscles. You can relieve nagging muscle knots, chronic back pain, and feel more comfortable – even refreshed from incorporating a little stretching into your daily routine.
Through regular yoga practice that includes a lot of stretching, I was able to reverse my poor posture that lingered from my teenage years when “hunching” was cool. Having better posture not only makes you look more attractive, but is better for your blood flow and you’ll feel more at ease.