Secrets for a Better Stretch

Good flexibility is something every joint needs for greater mobility and better posture.

Good flexibility is something every joint needs for greater mobility and better posture. Plus, stretched muscles ease tension while taking pressure off joints throughout your body. If stretching is already a part of your day, the suggestions below can enhance your routine.

Breathe deep. Make your stretching even more relaxing and pain relieving by working in elements of meditation. Specifically, try these simple breathing techniques:

  • Breathe through your nose both when inhaling and exhaling.
  • Focus on the hiss of air flowing in and out of your nostrils; the calming tone soothes your thoughts.
  • Take at least three seconds to fill your lungs and another three to let air out.

Unclench your stretch. Stretching should relax all of you. Don’t let your jaw, shoulders, hands, and feet tense up during your routine. Tense body parts make stretching other areas less effective.

Get an extra stretch. The rule of thumb is to stretch until you feel a gentle tug in the muscle. But if that feeling subsides as you hold, are you stretching far enough? The answer is yes — for the 15 seconds or so it takes your muscles to relax with the stretch. That might be enough for you. But if you feel limber enough to push a little farther, stretch another fraction of an inch after you’ve held for 15 seconds, then hold for another 15 seconds. This extra push, sometimes called the developmental stretch, helps promote flexibility faster than the first stretch alone.

Keep it up. Even if you don’t do other aerobic or strength exercises, it’s worth stretching every day: Lengthened muscles only keep their newfound flexibility for a day or less. Consistently working them every day, however, makes them progressively more pliable — as long as you keep stretching. Plus, stretching is good for stress relief and your attitude — every day.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest