Yogis have known for centuries that the key to good health is flexibility-- stretching. The soft flowing exercises known as hatha yoga were initially designed to free the body-- as well as the mind-- of stiffness. Chiropractors also believe that the key to youth and good health is a flexible spine. Besides adjustments they may suggest gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility. Trained massage therapists work with the soft tissue, stretching muscle tissue to gain length and flexibility. Different methods, yet they all work to bring higher levels of wellness.
If you have embarked upon a new exercise program as of late, good for you! But, if you are not using some stretching techniques as a warm up you may be doing more damage than you know. Flexibility is the key to all movement; simply defined as mobilization, freedom to move, or technically, the range of motion available in a joint or group of joints. You wouldn't run a race horse around the track at full steam without first walking or allowing his muscles to warm up.
Warming up and stretching increases the delivery of nutrients to the muscles, creating a more oxygen rich environment. The more oxygen that's made available, the more vital and healthy we become. The opposite is ischema or lack of oxygen-- causing spasm and pain from restricted blood flow. This causes the feeling of tight overworked muscles and leads to increased metabolic waste (lactic acid) in muscles causing soreness-- sometimes for days.
While flexibility is the key to all movement, balanced physical fitness requires a blending of three basic components-- flexibility, aerobic conditioning and strength training. Equally important is the balance of nutrition, stress management, rest, work and play. A few more words about nutrition: you wouldn't give that race horse a jolt of caffeine first thing in the morning and expect him to perform at his best. What we put into our bodies can dramatically add to, or decrease flexibility.
The Benefits of Stretching & Flexibility Include:
1. Increased range of motion for increased ease in daily living
2. Relieves muscle-joint soreness by increasing circulation
3. Promotes relaxation and reduces physical/emotional stress
4. Increases muscle/tendon elasticity which helps prevent injury/re-injury
5. Improves musculotendinous contractility, thus increasing strength potential and endurance
Along with balanced nutrition, the need for water is absolutely critical. The human body is composed of 70 percent water. Water helps the body perform almost all of its complex chemical functions including the removal of metabolic wastes produced from exercise.
Your physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, or exercise trainer can help develop a program of stretching for you that will help increase your flexibility. It may take continued persistent stretching to increase your flexibility but the rewards are paid in an increased quality of living.
Till next time, Rebecca.