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Did you know, stretching can make or break your workout?

Stretching F45

You are sweaty, you’ve just worked your butt off doing that cardio or high resistance session and the last thing you want to do is stay and stretch right? Let me share with you that stretching is up there with your workout, it is just as important, even more! Let me share with you why …

 

Fascia

Fascia is an elastic-like material that surrounds your muscles and tissues. It assists your muscles in returning to their natural state after being elongated. Activities such as yoga helps to strengthen the fascia, thus making it more elastic, allowing your muscles to return to their natural state. Think of it like this, an elastic band is usually tight to begin with but the more you stretch it out, use it to hold things together and continue to do, this the elastic band will get bigger. Eventually your elastic band may need to be thrown out because it is so flexible it isn’t doing it’s job (I will get to that a bit later)! That elastic band you began with will now need to be looped around a water bottle numerous times to allow it to stay there as it is more flexible.

Similarly, the more you stretch out your long limbs after training not only will they get stronger, but they will get a lot more flexible and limit the risk of injury leaving you a lot more motivated to head back to your session feeling great! Now, your probably wondering, can it get too flexible? The answer is yes, if you are not stretching it out properly and the joints are not supported. The human body is pretty incredible as our joints are usually fairly strong, surrounded by ligaments to hold everything together for stability. But, if we let our Ego mind get in the road sometimes we can push a little too far and forget to do ‘active stretching’.

 

 

Active Stretching

Active stretching involves using the muscles to support the stretches rather than pure body weight. This involves engaging the muscles surrounding the area you are stretching which avoids hyper extending joints, muscle tears, over stretching ligaments and eventually injury, leaving you frustrated because you cant train!

 

 

A few yoga poses to get your stretching started:

Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (Downward Facing Dog)

The ultimate hamstring, spinal and shoulder stretch!

  • Actively engage your arms, pushing the base of your fingertips (hands are shoulder width distance apart) into the mat so your chest is pushing away from your hands to lengthen out the spine.
  • Engage your core, drawing your belly button towards the floor to lift your hips towards the ceiling/sky.
  • Gently, paddle your feet (hip-width distance apart) one at a time (walking-like), bending each knee and drawing the opposite heel to the floor to stretch out the hamstrings. Continue to paddle the feet here ENGAGING the muscles in the legs especially the thigh and muscles surrounding the knee. Using the muscles in the toes and upper feet to help paddle out the feet.

 

 

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)

One of the poses I see the most people get wrong and struggle with. Most people think they just ‘flop’ forward and ‘dangle’ into this pose but it really needs ALL muscles to be engaged to reap the benefits.

  • Firstly, begin seated with legs out in front. Flex your feet to engage the leg muscles, making sure your toes are in-line with each other rather then the big toes further towards the body. This creates more length in your legs making it a deeper stretch.
  • Actively lift your arms straight up over your head, lengthening the spine. Keep the chest open here so your arm pits are in-line with your ears. This is the important part, to keep your chest open as you slowly ..
  • Slowly, fold forward reaching your arms as far as you can towards your feet. Now, the aim isn’t to touch your toes its to actively do this stretch so that it feels right for you. The important part is to create length in the spine as you fold forward and continue to fold into this pose.
  • Gently relax the head and neck. Allow your head to fall. A little bit more … a little bit more. Relax the head and neck.

*The sensations you feel at the back of your spine and upper neck in this pose is the fascia working its magic and stretching out. Its really important to get maximum benefits here that you keep your feet flexed and lengthen the spine.

 

How much time should I spend stretching?

I recommend spending at least 5-10mins stretching after a 45-60 minute workout to get the maximum cool-down effect. This also activates our parasympathetic nervous system in control of the ‘rest & digest’ mode allowing our body to slow down which balances the high adrenaline state of working out. So enjoy your stretching and if you need any one-on-one assistance just get in touch with me, I would love to help!

 

Love & light,

B xo