Even if you’ve never taken a yoga class, I know you’ve stretched before.  You might only have stretched when you first wake up in the morning.  That first stretch after you wake up (or after sitting for a long time) has physiological benefits.  It’s an instinctive thing most people do upon being still for hours.

What if I Don’t like Yoga?

That’s okay.  It’s not for everyone.  You don’t have to be a yoga lover to stretchI did not like my first yoga class about 30 years ago.  I left early (So RUDE!)  I wasn’t ready for yoga!  You could give it another try, and shop around for the right style or teacher for you.  But if you don’t want to go that route, you have lots of options.  There are massage therapists, Thai massage, chiropractors, physical therapist, and personal trainers who may have some expertise in stretching.   Or just make it a habit to stretch for 5 minutes after a workout. Stretching is so important!

How Stretching Works

Lymphatic fluid accumulates in the muscles at night, or while you are still for a while.  The lymphatic system takes away waste products and toxins that are produced in our bodies.  When you stretch, the muscles squeeze the lymphatic vessels in your muscle tissue and help rid your body of those waste products.  That muscle compression causes the production of endorphins in the pituitary gland in the brain.  The release of endorphins causes a relaxation response. 

It Feels So Good!

This can even happen after you’ve been sitting at your computer for hours and you take a great big breath and a stretch to get the blood pumping again.  Maybe you only stretch before or after a workout.  Whenever you do it, doesn’t it feel good?  There is an actual physiological explanation that explains why stretching feels so good.

Why Does a Stretch Feel So Good?

While you stretch, you are focusing on your body and usually your breath.  As a result, you get a moment to clear your mind.   All that deep breathing and stretching benefits not just your body, but also your mind.  To create a stretch or a lengthening of the muscles, you must release the tension in those muscles to allow them to compress and lengthen.  The deep breathing required for a safe stretch is another way to stimulate endorphin production.  The combination of breath and endorphins help you relax and let go!  They automatically stimulate the relaxation response in your body.

11 Reasons Stretching Keeps You Healthy:

Increases range of motion in joints

Range of motion is important for more freedom of movement and any motion, walking, climbing stairs, carrying children, lifting laundry, etc.  By increasing range of motion you can decrease joint pain and find, not just sports and exercises more effective, but you may find daily tasks are easier.

Increases flexibility

Helping your muscles be more pliant prevents tightness which can lead to injury.  Increased flexibility also increases stability, balance, and strength.

Reduces your risks of injuries

 We all have imbalances in our bodies and our muscles.  Making the muscles more supple and stretchy prevents injuries that come from imbalance and tightness.

Increases agility

in any physical exercise or general movement. Especially in exercise, your movement will be quicker. and more precise.  The lengthening of muscles proves to make anyone more sure-footed and nimble.

Increases blood flow

The pulling and compression on the muscles during a stretch cause an increase in blood flow.  Add deep breathing, and you are sending newly oxygenated blood to those muscles groups that are stretching.

Reduces anxiety and Stress and Releases tension

When we are stressed, our bodies produce catecholamines, also known as stress hormones. That stress or anxiety reduces blood flow and compresses our blood vessels. Along with deep slow breathing and focus on specific muscle groups, one can stimulate different hormones and the relaxation response in the body.

Stretching combined with deep breathing turns on the parasympathetic nervous system. That is the exact opposite of the stressed condition. Now our bodies begin endorphin production and we begin to feel calm and relaxed.

Stretching Safely

Stretching is not something you should do before a workout.  To benefit from stretching, your muscles must be warm.  I always start with movement and breath in all my yoga classes. You just can’t force a cold muscle to lengthen.  And you’ll set yourself up for injury.  You can warm up by walking or doing any active movement for 5-10 minutes.  Or at the end of your workout, take 5 minutes to stretch muscles that are specific to the activity you just finished.

Stretches for After Lower Body Workout/Cardio

For example, if you just finished walking/running on the treadmill or the elliptical the most important muscles to stretch are:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Hips

Stretches for Upper Body?

The muscles you’ll need to stretch are:

  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Chest
  • Upper back
  • Lower Back
  • Abdominals

You can print these poses or download them and

practice safe stretching for a healthier you! Enjoy!