My body is already feeling the effects of being alive for 31 years, from tightness in my joints to sore muscles and achy bones. I take Vitamin D supplements (sunshine in a capsule) and drink at least 2 liters of water a day but I have found that when I don’t stretch, the tension builds up in my body, making me way more irritable and causing me to feel like crap. Old, worn-out CRAP! And I am 31 years YOUNG, folks!!
Regular stretching can help “open up” the body to relieve pain, reduce tension, tightness + crankiness and can just overall make you feel good. It aids in elasticity of connective tissue and allows your joints to move through their full, normal range of motion, decreasing the stresses on the wrong parts of the body.
For me, I hold my stress in my jaw, neck, thighs and sometimes stomach but mainly in my hips. The hips are a BIG holder of all-things stress for women in particular. On an average, 65% on the workers in the U.S. sit down for at least 6 hours a day. That’s not even taking into account how much sitting we do in our cars, going out to movies, restaurants or at home. This causes our hip flexors (the muscle running along the front of your hips into the upper thigh) to shorten and our glutes (butt muscles) to weaken. Not only that, but your hips are your body’s “junk drawer”. Many, many, MANY of those emotional stressors you’re not quite ready to release yet are stored here: sad memories, financial problems, relationship woes, family issues, etc all make up the fear, depression, anxiety + sadness that reside in your hips. With stretching, you will literally feel your muscles + emotions release as your body takes control of your brain, convincing your mind to relax.
I would love to get up early in the morning and start my day off with stretching. Instead, I enjoy sleeping until the last possible minute before getting up for work but more power to those who can get started early. However, I stretch as soon as I get to my job and then I sit on a stability ball for most of the morning before switching to my office chair. I also take a couple walks throughout the day and hang outside. Being in nature is therapeutic all in itself so if I can get in some outdoor stretching, I’m all about it. Bring on the sunshine!
Since I’m not a licensed instructor, I highly recommend looking up the following poses on Youtube to get “proper” demonstrations on how to perform them correctly. These are my favorite hip-opening stretches followed by a few tips to keep in mind as you start to incorporate stretching into your daily routine.
Jenn’s Stretching 101:
(It can be dangerous to stretch a cold muscle so just for 5 minutes or so, do some jumping jacks to get your blood flowing.)
Dynamic before static
(Dynamic stretching is slow, controlled movements while static is remaining still while holding a stretch. Try some leg swings, lunges + high knee marches to loosen things up.)
DO NOT bounce
(This causes your muscle to contract, which can lead to injury and trust me, you do NOT want to tear ANYTHING.)
Stretch ONLY until you feel a slight, gentle pull
(Do NOT push the stretch as far as you can go. Its about being relaxed and as comfortable as possible)
Hold for at least 30 seconds
(In order to gain the full effect of the stretch, allowing the muscle tissue to relax + lengthen; try to build up to 2-5 minutes per pose.)
Breeeeeeeeathe (the most IMPORTANT rule!)
(Inhale when you’re about to stretch + exhale slowly AS you stretch then focus on breathing while holding each stretch; remain breathing comfortably.)
I’ll do more blogs focusing on specific areas like stretches for your jaw (I get WICKED TMJ), neck exercises and more. Where do YOU hold your stress? What are some of YOUR favorite stretches?