There is no question that stretching is probably one of the best things you can do for your body. With the harsh reality that stiff muscles can quickly turn into injured body parts and ongoing pain, if left untreated, it is a good idea to include a short, yet effective stretching routine to the end of any workout. Although it’s no secret that a light cool down routine after exercise is necessary to prevent muscles from becoming stiff, that doesn’t mean it’s not easy to forget or just blow off this process after an intense workout. If like many others out there, you aren’t sure of the most effective way to cool down the muscles and stretch them out after exercise, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are some great, simple yoga stretches that can really help to combat stiff, aching muscles after any kind of exercise regime. In this article we will discuss how yoga helps to stretch our muscles, why you might want to adopt the process into your daily routine, and also a few specific yoga poses that target key areas of the body.
Yoga is an excellent way to provide deep, intense stretches throughout the body, ensuring that the muscles are kept free, and supple. As you can see by the sheer amount of people sporting funky yoga pants while making their way to classes all over London, yoga is huge right now. With the ability to help us build strength and flexibility, in addition to the amazing effects the practice has on our mental well-being, it’s no surprise why. Yoga can help the body to build up a resilience to muscles seizing up after a workout, helping to eliminate the pain caused by tight muscles.
With the standard advice being to pair one movement, with one breath, stretching using yoga has never been more simple. Although advised to attend a yoga class, at least for the first few sessions, yoga can be practiced in the comfort of your own home, if preferred. Mirroring the poses and movements of a certified instructor, whether that is in person or through the use of a yoga DVD, can give you the low-down on a variety of different postures, outlining what each pose is most suited to. The wide variety of yoga poses out there means that there is a technique specifically designed to stretch out each individual muscle group. The steady breathing you adopt once you’ve found your rhythm only increases the stretch further, and provides the muscles with fresh, oxygenated blood. Many types of yoga are best practiced in a warm room, with some practices such as Bikram Yoga, being carried out at an optimum heat of 100 degrees plus. The warmth of the room increases blood circulation to the muscles, lowering the risk of associated injury, and, therefore, allowing for a deeper stretch.
In today’s day and age, there are many reasons out there why one might want to stretch out their muscles. Below, we explore just a few of them:
One of the most popular and renowned reasons for stretching muscles is to prevent injury. Forgetting to stretch off the muscles after a work out session can result in pain and problems all over the body; ranging from little niggles such as tight hamstrings to a more intense pain that interferes with your day-to-day life. Stretching before each work out is equally as important, as participating in exercise when muscles are tight, increases the risk of more serious injury such as tendonitis, strains, sprains and even lasting back problems. Stretching off the muscles before and after exercise ensures that muscles and keep soft and supple, minimising the risk of injury.
An increase in a range of motion, agility, and flexibility are all things that can result from frequent stretching. By partaking in just a few minutes of yoga each day, the muscles get the chance to be flooded with fresh, oxygenated blood, becoming that little bit more flexible with each session. In turn, better flexibility may improve your performance during physical activities, decrease your risk of injury, and even keep you looking younger.
It’s not just muscles that benefit from a good old stretch. Participating in just 10 minutes of stretching per day has the ability to help calm the mind, providing you with a mental break. Giving the body a chance to recharge, classes such as yoga or pilates offer the chance for you to release tension throughout the body, both psychically and mentally. As we stretch, toxins are released from the muscles, and exit the body through our sweat glands; fresh, oxygenated blood is then supplied to all areas of the body, making us feel healthy, recharged, and raring to go.
This well-known posture is renowned for opening the back, neck, chest, and hips, and also provides a stretch through the calves if you let your heels sink slowly into the floor.
How to: Start on all fours, ensuring your hands are placed directly underneath your shoulders. Begin to lift the buttocks up toward the ceiling, elongating the spine whilst making sure your knees are kept locked. Next, push heels toward the floor as much as possible, without forcing them. Keeping your bottom high, drop your head towards the floor, letting it hang loosely. You are in the Downward Dog. Stay in the pose for a few minutes, taking a few deep, long, breaths.
Childs Pose ensures the ultimate stretch down the entire back, hips, and thighs, making the position popular for sufferers of back pain.
How to: Again, begin on all fours. Bring your feet together and push your hips back to your heels. Your stomach should now be resting on your thighs, and you will be able to bring your forehead down toward the floor. Finally, stretch your arms out in front of you to feel a stretch up the length of the back. You are in Childs Pose.
Legs up the wall, or Viparita Karani as it is more formally known, gently stretches the hamstrings, allowing blood in the feet and legs to recirculate in the body.
How to: This simple pose, really is as easy as it sounds. To start, make sure you’re sitting facing a wall. Lie on your back, and slowly bring your knees into your chest. Next, straighten your legs out toward the ceiling, placing them against the wall, ensuring your bottom is touching the wall. You are in Legs Up The Wall. For an added stretch, try extending your arms over your head, resting them flat on the floor.
Whether you are looking to practice stretching to improve your overall health and fitness levels, or you’re looking to it as an aid for back pain, joint problems or any other existing injury, stretching through yoga is a perfect way to ensure optimum health in the body and mind.