5 Great ways to stretch
Move over, stagnant stretching. It’s time for mobility patterns. Plus, 3 great tips for napping!
There is no doubt that stretching before and after a workout is important, but did you know that you could be causing damage? One definition of stretching is “to lengthen by force.” Yikes! Isolated stretches—think a quadriceps or hamstring stretch—focus on one muscle group at a time and you risk pushing the stretch too far.
Create a strong foundation
When a builder lays the foundation for a home, she doesn’t focus on just one corner. If she did, the structure would tip over. And if the roof is uneven, the builder looks at the entire structure to figure out what is causing the imbalance.
Your body works the same way. If you gently move your entire body after a workout, you alleviate tension throughout. When focusing on one muscle group at a time, the tension release is isolated. Incorporating movement into a stretching routine gently encourages your body to identify and release points of tension. Movement also reduces impact and gives you a full-body stretch.
Surfers get it
Instead of stretching, start thinking about improving flexibility after a workout with the mobility patterns outlined below.
When you work on mobility patterns, think like a surfer reacting to the rhythm of the ocean waves. Only you’re trying to connect with the wave that is your body. Say goodbye to pushing or pulling your body into set postures. Instead, embrace the flow and have fun rotating, twisting and even floating your body in patterns that help with overall flexibility while also increasing circulation and body awareness.
Ann’s top five mobility stretches
One | Standing turtle shell
This pattern is great for your central nervous system.
Stand with legs apart and slightly bent. Hold your fingers at the nape of your neck and flex your spine forward like a turtle’s shell on an exhale. Open up your elbows, raising chin away from chest on an inhale.
5 to 7 reps.
Two | Fence and crab crawl
This movement encourages upper-body mobility while releasing leg tension.
Begin by kneeling on your left knee, making a wide lunge to the side with your right foot. Start with your arms over your head. Swing your right arm down and underneath your left armpit, following with body and head. Keep your arms moving.
Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes, switching legs.
Three | Shoulder Macarena
This movement increases shoulder mobility.
Cross both arms in front of your body, then reach your right arm into the air, then down and behind spine. Follow with your left arm to touch the top of the spine. Swing both arms back across your middle and begin again with the opposite arms. Keep your arms moving.
Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes
Four | Leg straddle
Releases tension in your back and legs.
Lying on the floor with your bum about two inches from the wall, bring your legs vertically up the wall and relax. Gently open your legs to a straddle position.
Hold for 8 to 10 breaths.
Five | Face plant svanasana
Enjoy this release of tension and the feeling of your entire front body being supported.
Lay face down on the carpet or mat, legs straight and arms resting gently beside your body. That’s it!
Hold for two minutes.
Embrace the Einstein moment
Recovery doesn’t just start right after a workout. Your body is constantly working. The key is to balance work with rest. One of the best ways to do this is with a 10-minute siesta. Einstein was an avid adopter of the power nap. He believed that these mini rest periods were essential for inspiring great ideas. Try this technique out for a week instead of a 10 minute coffee break. You may be surprised by how fresh you feel.
Three steps to taking back the nap
- Block out distractions with earplugs and a night mask. Turn your phone off and let people know you’re unavailable for the next 10 minutes. Find a place that is quiet and dark.
- Make yourself comfortable. Cocoon yourself in a cozy blanket, put on some fuzzy socks and make sure you’re warm and cozy.
- Adopt your power nap position—whatever feels comfortable. Lie in a hammock, try a restorative posture, or simply zone out in your office chair à la Einstein.
More Inspiration: Check out this awesome article on meditating with chocolate!
Author: Ann Green is a former heptathlon competitor, certified yoga instructor, and owner of BLiSS Ann Green Yoga in Barrie, ON.www.shineology.ca