Some people are naturally more flexible than others. Even if you aren’t all that flexible, you can take steps to improve your flexibility. Scheduling time to stretch is an excellent way to lengthen and relax your muscles. No matter what type of stretching you prefer, it will help to follow the general guideline listed here.
• To avoid injury, never stretch cold muscles. Begin by warming up your muscles by taking a short walk, jog, or other physical activity.
• Next, follow a stretching routine that includes your entire body. Begin with the muscles in your upper body including neck, shoulder, bicep, tricep, back and chest stretches. Move on to your lower body by performing core, hip, glute, hamstring, calf, quad, and ankle stretches.
• Never use jerky or bouncy movements. All stretching movements should be fluid and should be held for at least 20-40 seconds working towards 60-90 seconds.
• As you become increasingly comfortable with stretches, hold them for longer periods of time and deepen them to increase flexibility even further. Be careful to not overextend your muscles. Push yourself to the point where you feel a stretch, but not enough that you are in a lot of pain. You will find that your stretching abilities improve with time as long as you challenge yourself gradually.
• While stretching, be conscious of your breathing technique. Take deep, even breaths. Many people breathe unevenly or do not breathe at all while stretching. Your muscles need a regular source of oxygen for optimum health.
• As with any form of exercise, stretching included, it is important to stay hydrated. Without proper hydration, your muscles will suffer by cramping. This will be counterproductive and will actually decrease your flexibility.
One of the best things you can do for flexibility and your overall health is to add yoga inspired poses into your warm-up and cool down. Be sure to ask an instructor to show you how to move your body in a way that encompasses all of the guidelines mentioned above. You will then be able to use these techniques to properly stretch before and after your exercise routine or athletic event.