Stretching after exercise is very important, not only to prevent muscle soreness the next day, but to also allow the muscles to realign and not remain overly tight following exertion. However, you should also use stretches even without doing any physical activity. Due to everyday activities; be it standing, sitting for long periods or lifting things regularly, your body will develop areas of tension. This is simply the body’s clever way of supporting itself; when in the same position time after time, certain muscles come into play, adapting and becoming shorter and tighter. Your muscles will stay this way unless they are attended to with some simple stretches. Further help can be sought through classes like yoga, which is fantastic for lengthening muscles, improving flexibility and posture.
To prevent a build up of tension and its visible effects e.g. hunched shoulders, rounded back, neck jutting forwards, short stride length in gait, it is useful to try and integrate some movements that are key to realigning the body towards optimal posture as well as greater comfort. These movements can, in turn, help prevent injury. With one set of muscles dominating a movement where there should be an equal balance, this can cause other muscles to strain to compensate and lead to a pull, strain or even a tear.
If you are sitting for long periods of time your hip flexors are prone to becoming tight. This tension can alter your posture and affect your gait, which in turn may lead to pain or injury.
Here is a stretch pattern to remedy this area:
Lunge forwards with your left foot in front, allowing both knees to form a right angle and reach up as high as you can with your right arm while keeping your shoulder blades down your back. Then step back to a neutral standing position. Repeat this 15-20 times, or until you feel looser in the hip flexor area. Then change sides.
NOTE: To increase the stretch sensation, add a rotation in your torso either towards or away from the front leg. Take care however, as it can have quite a dramatic effect.
Another common complaint, in sportsmen particularly, is tight hamstrings. Instead of the usual static hold you may already know, we will add some movement to allow maximum benefit. Step your right foot backwards leaving the left foot to rock onto the heel, then take your hips back while reaching your arms forwards (towards your toes or out ahead of you). Now step back up to a standing position and repeat. Imagine someone is pulling your hips backwards and your hands forwards to get the best stretch!
This dynamic form of stretching is far more beneficial in the long term than the static type; the muscles are naturally stretched in two or three planes of motion to trigger contraction back towards a position of least effort/tension — we call it centre: you currently know it as neutral.
To support this increased flexibility you should work on your core strength to allow the spine to align well in accordance with the surrounding muscles. Core stability is important to everyone, active or not; it can help to prevent back pain and to have greater control over your stomach muscles, achieving a slimmer and more toned appearance. As well as abdominals exercises, make sure you work your back and do some twisting movements to encompass all planes of motion that the body goes through.
Through doing these exercises, you should feel a lot less restricted in the lower body and perhaps your upper body as well. Practice daily for maximum results; it may improve your posture, when static or walking, as well as alleviating any niggling pain you have had. These are some of the benefits of dynamic stretching. I hope you enjoy using them!
If you have any questions then please do get in touch.
In September 2012 I started on my yoga teacher-training course in London. I would not have known back then just how much it would affect me, how it would be so life changing and important to me.
It’s especially nice to be living here in Brighton, with the sea nearby, and to have a short walk home from class. I have done my practise today as well as a class locally and I’m so incredibly grateful to have yoga in my life.
Why? Because … I am calmer, I am more resilient when things get stressful, I am even more thankful for the little things in life, I cry less and accept more, my body is leaner and stronger overall, and lastly I feel that I know myself a whole lot better because of yoga. I feel truly honoured to be able to teach this wonderful art and ancient practice, so that I can do my best to assist others in a similar way.
I have been active all my life. From loving gymnastics as a little kid to doing my degree in dance, I have been nicknamed ‘a pocket rocket’ many a time. Having been a personal trainer for over five years, I enjoy a mixture of disciplines to keep me feeling happy, strong and slim. Yoga has definitely helped with another passion of mine, kettlebell training. When doing kettlebell swings with a 12kg bell one day, I realised how much stronger I felt in my back and shoulder muscles.
It’s not all peachy and a story of discovering my bliss. At times, going to yoga teacher training has left me feeling open, exposed, vulnerable and in need of hibernating under the duvet with a cup of milky spiced chai. I found that it can stir up things that I didn’t even know were troubling me. Yoga allows you to work through your own ‘baggage’, digest it and come out alive the other side and be grateful for the experience.
It is natural for a group to bond through studying and training together. But there is something much deeper than can be said about the kind of ‘sisterhood’ felt amoungst the group of teacher trainee Yogis. After the first couple of weekends and once we’d had a chance to meet everyone, I came home and said to my boyfriend “I’ve never been in a room with so many nice people all at one time”. At school or other group events, there’s always one with an ego problem, or a performer of the bunch who wants to outshine the rest. However, at yoga training I always felt fully accepted and comfortable in my surroundings. — This is such a good thing because at various points throughout the course, we all needed to have a good cry — a meltdown over the Sanskrit names for poses — or something. On the last day of the course, the group went out for a lovely vegetarian meal in central London. Upon saying goodbye it dawned on me that we would not be together as the same group again. Sure we’ll arrange meet ups, but some will move away, etc. so really, it was the end of an era.
A Mantra in every day life
George Harrison describes a mantra as ‘a mystical sound vibration encased in a syllable’. One of my favourite mantras (with lots of syllables!) that I learned from the course was ‘Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu’. This translates as ‘May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all’.
Namaste and here’s to the future Yogis! With love, light and happiness xx