Wednesday, 22 July 2020

It's Time To Get Those Muscles Stretched: 12 Stretches for improved flexibility and better posture

It seems that as the older we become, the less flexible we are too. But it doesn't have to be this way if you incorporate regular stretches into your lifestyle. Stretching can form part of your daily exercise routine and a few stretches a day is good enough to give you an energising boost if you're feeling exhausted.

Photo credit: Unsplash - Stretching for flexibility

What are the benefits of stretching?

If you haven't considered stretching as an important part of your exercise regimen, then it's time to give it a re-think. Stretches provide you with many advantages such as:

 Improving blood circulation

When you're sitting at a desk in one position for a long time, your blood circulation won't be as good. Restrictions in blood circulation for long periods is not ideal as it can pose risks of blood clot development. 

Taking a break from what you're busy with to do a few stretches will improve your blood circulation and increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to cells and tissue.

Better posture 

When you improve your posture, you reduce the risk of injuries. Muscle and joint injuries often occur when there is too much strain or pressure exerted onto the muscles. Proper posture will guide you to walk, sit and pick things up correctly without hurting your back amongst other areas that are often affected. 

More flexibility 

Being flexible doesn't mean that you'll be able to do a split. Instead, when you're more flexible, you can reach further without straining your joints or muscles. This is handy for injury prevention. 

Better balance

Even while it may not seem like it, stretching can help to improve your balance too. This is good for preventing falls and again injury. Seniors over the age of 80 are more likely to risk injuries due to a fall compared to younger people. Stretching moves for seniors are extremely important.

Reduces tension

With the tension in the shoulders reduced, you'll experience fewer headaches, neck and upper back pain as a result. Stretching also helps to soothe your mind and to give your body a naturally energising feeling. 

Mental focus and calmness

As mentioned in the above point, stretching can help to instill focus and to calm you down when you're feeling stressed. This is why it is so beneficial to breath properly through every stretch as it has a positive mind-body effect. 

 Tips on warming up before stretching

Photo credit: Unsplash - warm up before stretching

Any activity done before warming up the muscles can result in injury. The same is said of stretching without warming up first.

Before you start your stretches (note stretches isn't a warm up strategy), first do a cardio activity to warm up. This can be anything from a short brisk walk, to a short run. Only after warming up like this can you start stretching. 

2. Standing quad stretch for tight quads

This is another easy stretch to do. Quad pain is common amongst athletic people, but you can also experience pain during exercise. This is why warming up helps.

How to do it: 

3. Extended "puppy pose" (Uttina Shishosana)

This pose helps to stretch the back, glutes, an shoulders. Oftentimes, when we have bad posture during sitting it can lead to shoulder and neck pain. Yoga provides a variety of stretches that especially targets certain areas of the body.

How to do it:

4. Laying quad stretch

This is an extended version of the standing quad stretch and you need to lie on your side for this.

How to do it: 

5. Seated shoulder squeeze 

Even though often overlooked, the seated shoulder stretch helps to ease tension in the shoulders. While doing so, it also eases tightness in the upper back.

How to do it: 

6. Hand to big toe pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

This pose is excellent for stretching your hips, hamstrings, groins and calve muscles. If you have tight hamstrings and cant stretch as far, you can always use a strap on the instep of the raised leg.

7. "Eye of the needle" stretch (Sucirandhrasana)

Photo credit: Unsplash - "Needle in the eye" stretch variation

This particular stretch is good for hip flexors and is important especially for people who work at a desk for prolonged hours. It can help to reduce pain and injury if you do this and other stretches targeted at hip flexors. 

8. Crescent lunge (Anjaneyasana

Photo credit: Unsplash - variation of the "forward fold"

The crescent lunge helps to stretch the hip flexors, groin, and leg muscles. It is a relaxing and also energising move that is excellent if you want to wake up from feeling exhausted. Again, this paired with other yoga poses is very effective at helping you feel energised.

How to do it:


9. Lunge with a twist (Parivarrta Uttitha Ashwa Sanchalanasana)

Photo credit: Unsplash - Lunge with twist

The lunge with a twist move pose is good to help flex your spine. It can also help to stretch the muscles in your legs and with time helps to increase range and flexibility. Sometimes this stretch is referred to as "the world's greatest stretch because it effectively helps correct posture-related issues.

How to do it:


10. Standing hamstring stretch or "forward fold pose" (Padangusthasana)

Photo credit: Unsplash - Forward fold

Tight hamstrings are common, even in athletic people. It is important to stretch these muscles to avoid the risk of injury and sprains. There are many ways to stretch hamstring muscles but this post guides you through the standing pose. 

NB: Don't be afraid to bend your knees if your hamstrings are tight.

How to do it: 

11. The butterfly stretch (Baddha Konasana)

Photo credit: Unsplash - Butterfly stretch

This stretch is good for the inner thighs, groin, and lower back. It is easy to do and will help you on your journey to flexibility.

 How to do it:


12. Plank pose 

Photo credit: Unsplash - plank stretch

Plank pose is one of the most loved core exercise routines. It helps to tone the core muscles as well as improve posture. In addition, it helps with flexibility and strengthens the muscles in the back. You can practice this stance everyday.

How to do it:

Some people are doing the 30 day plank challenge. You can give it a try and set your goals starting today.

Conclusion to stretching for flexibility 

The more flexible your muscles are the lower the chances of pain and strain occurs when doing everyday movements. Correct stretching also targets certain areas that are sore and can help to speed up the healing process. While this is so, adequate stretching can help reduce pain and the need to have pain medication.

While it takes time for your body to become more flexible and it differs with everyone, one of the best things to to is be consistent. If you don't have a schedule, start slotting one into your day.

Do you do a few stretches to kick start your day or for winding down? Which are your favourites?



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