Stretching exercises improve your flexibility and can have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing.
There are many benefits to practicing this exercise, and it’s a great stepping stone to other activities.
What is Stretching?
Stretching is a type of exercise that targets a specific muscle, muscle group or tendon. The muscle or tendon is flexed and stretched to improve elasticity and muscle tone. Many exercises involve stretching to some degree, such as yoga and Tai chi, while most athletes perform some type of stretching exercises prior to practicing sports like running, cycling and team sports.
History of Stretching Excercise
The word stretch originates from the 16th century Old English word streccan, which come from West Germanic language roots. Perhaps the oldest form of stretching as a disciplined form of exercise is yoga.
According to one legend, thousands of years ago, Adiyogi poured his knowledge into the Saptarishis, or seven sages, at lake Kantisarovar in the Himalayas. The sages brought yogic science to the Middle East, Asia and America. Parallels found in ancient cultures may stem from these practices. Indian mysticism fully embraced formalized stretching routines as a way to tie together the body, soul and mind. A mystic named Agastya is credited with spreading this culture of health and awareness throughout India, where yoga poses are evident in the vedas as early as 2700 B.C.
Prepare for Stretching
The good news is that stretching itself serves as a base for many other physical activities, so you can get right into it. It’s a good idea to start out with easier stretches to get the body warmed up before flowing into deeper or more difficult stretching exercises. If you wish, take a moment to center your thoughts and breathing so that you can fully concentrate on stretching.
The most common forms are static and dynamic stretches:
- Static stretches are held in a comfortable position for 10 and 30 seconds. These exercises are beneficial following exercise.
- Dynamic stretches are active movements that stretch the muscles without holding the position. These stretches prepare the muscles for other physical activity.
Here are a few stretches for beginners. When searching for a regime that works for you, start slow, especially if you are older or have health concerns.
A side stretch works the intercostal muscles found between your ribs, your external obliques and lats. In a standing position, with your feet together, lace your fingers. Raise your joined hands over your head and stretch your arms, torso and legs. Bend to one side slowly and hold the pose for about five seconds. Return to your original position and repeat on the other side. Alternate sides throughout the exercise.
Leg And Lower Back Stretch
This exercise stretches your lower back and legs at the same time. Sit comfortably on the floor with both legs in front of you. Bend one knee to rest the foot along the inside of the unbent leg. Lean forward, stretching over the straight leg, taking care to keep your back straight. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat, alternating legs as you go.
Upper Body Stretch
Now, stretch your upper body. In a standing position, with knees hip-width apart, raise bent arms over your head. Hold one elbow with the opposite hand and pull the elbow behind your head while leaning to the side. Hold the position 10 seconds. Repeat, alternating sides as you go.
There are many benefits to stretching, both physically and mentally. Stretching calms your mind and helps prevent tension headaches. It can improve your posture and increase blood flow, as well as increase your flexibility and range of motion. It’s the easiest form of exercise for those new to physical activity and it helps you look and feel better.