“I should stretch more”
“I need to do more yoga”
“It’s time to book a massage…”
Then read on…
Stretching is the new hot topic in the health and wellness sphere.
Because it is a life-long habit that provides endless benefits. From better digestion to full-body flexibility, say goodbye to lower back pain and repetitive stress injuries.
The best part is that now there are places like Stretch Studio in Sydney’s Double Bay, where you can have a professional stretcher called a Flexologist assist you with a full body stretch! They are specially trained in the art of assisted stretching (um, cool?), and taught how to match the resistance of each client, knowing how far to stretch them and when to stop (which I highly regard).
It honestly is the best way to achieve a deeper, more controlled stretch that just feels so damn great!
Sounds obvious, but there is more to flexibility than simply lifting your leg behind your head! Flexibility can help to reduce constant muscle pain, and decrease your risk of injury. Tara Romeo, CSCS, assistant director of the Professional Athletic Performance Center in New York says “believe it or not, back pain may come from tight hamstrings”. Tight hamstring muscles can affect the status of your lower back and spine health, causing repetitive pain and discomfort.
On the other hand, flexibility can help to reduce your risk of injury. Whether it be through playing sport, a gym class, Pilates or a run on the beach, the more flexible you are, the softer and more supple your muscles are. Whereas tight muscles mean less room to move, increasing the chance of tearing when overused or overstressed.
We all want to age gracefully on the inside AND the outside. So many of us spend lots of dollars on skin products, hair and nail treatments, all the effort to keep our outside looking fresh and clean! However, so often we forget the importance of posture and how much it impacts our ageing process – physically AND mentally.
Posture is more than simply sitting up tall with your shoulders rolled down your back – it is about correctly aligning your spin to allow the free flow of oxygen, proper functioning of your vital organs and muscle activation. Bad posture is the result of tight muscles, which is ultimately the result of muscle weakness.
Increased Energy levels
There is a reason why people attend health and yoga retreats – the days are full of relaxation, moving meditation, stretch sessions – leaving you feeling energised and reawakened. Stretching, whether it be assisted or on your own, helps to soften the muscles, allowing for extra blood flow and oxygen to travel around the body. The oxygen and blood can move more freely around the muscles and internal pathways, getting rid of any unnecessary dust that might make you feel drowsy, tight and overworked.
Stretching first thing in the morning also helps to wake up the nervous system, gently shocking the body after being reclined and still for a solid 8-9 hours. Our body naturally slows down over night as it concentrates on the important internal tasks such as digestion, recovery and cell rejuvenation. However, this means that it needs an extra bit of “oomph” in the morning to get going, hence why a morning stretch as you first wake up feels so damn good! It is also why practicing a stretch session such as yoga on an empty stomach when you wake, is the best time also!
Sooooo many of our digestive issues can stem from a tight and unhappy muscular system. Tight hamstrings can lead to belly issues, a sore back can aggravate your gut and tense shoulders will cause you to hunch over, which may also disrupt digestion.
Forward folds with a gentle bend to your knees can help to relieve trapped flatulence (glamorous word for gas), that essentially causes sharp pain, hard bellies and unwanted bloating. Laying supine (on your back), hugging your knees into your chest either simultaneously or one after the other, can also help to stretch our the lower back, relax the belly and relieve the muscles that surround the digestive tract.
3 years ago, I found the practice of Yoga – originally, it was for 2 reasons: to help clear the mind, and to help stimulate my digestive system after multiple years of issues, pain and irritation. Yoga has seriously changed my life, especially when it comes to my digestive health. If I ever feel my belly becoming aggravated, bloated or gassy (sorry not sorry), I perform a few sun salutations that involve a stretch of the entire system, specifically in my front and back side body.
Decreased Water Retention
Have you ever noticed your face and fingers puff up whenever you are stressed, overworked and tired? That may be your body holding onto the water within your system, rather than circulating it around.
Stretching, like it does for oxygen and blood, helps to soften the muscles and surrounding tissues, allowing for an easier movement of water around the body. Water retention in the body can make us feel uncomfortable in the skin we are in, causing you to feel puffy, heavy and sluggish – no thank you!
Assisted or individual stretching helps to alleviate any blocked pathways that inhibit a smooth flow of water around your internal system – which may also help to circulate the nutrients and vitamins that we consume, ensuring they get to the necessary places!