Looking to increase your flexibility? Here’s how you can do it safely.
If you’re one of those who can’t touch your toes and struggle to extend a body part without feeling like you’re about to break, improving your flexibility should rank high on your agenda.
As we age, our joints get stiffer, limiting our range of motion. That decline in mobility may affect day-to-day activities, such as bending down to pick up a fallen object, retrieving something overhead, or even reaching behind to zip your dress. Plus, when you’re flexible, you’ll be able to perform better at any sport, be it running or weight lifting, go deeper into yoga poses, and reduce your risk of workout-related injuries.
Warm up your body beforehand
Muscles contract when they are cold but when they’re warm, they’re much more malleable. This is also why people find it easier to stretch when they’re in a hot room or a hot climate.
Do some easy warm-up exercises to ease yourself into stretches that can be too deep or even painful if you do them all of a sudden. When you’re stretching, always start slow and build up the intensity gradually.
(Also read: Warm Up Exercises: What You’re Doing Wrong)
Don’t hold poses for too long
Yin yoga (where passive stretches are held for a few minutes at a time) is great for relaxation, but if you go into a pose suddenly or if you push yourself too hard, holding it for such a long time can cause more harm than good. While it’s great to push yourself to stretch farther than usual, long and intense stretches can cause over-stretching, which will cause muscle pain and tightness.
(Also read: 7 Best Yoga Moves To Strengthen Your Core)
Get out of poses with control
Letting go of your body and suddenly flopping onto your mat can cause more issues than just the noise it creates. When you are in a pose, your body is stretched, and your muscles are engaged to hold you in place.
Just letting go causes your muscles and bones to quickly return to their normal position without warning. This can cause strains, tears, pulls, or injuries.
For the modified dancer pose in the picture above, letting go of your leg like that would hurt your back from the sudden jerk. Instead, release your hands slowly, then bring your foot down using one hand. It’s all about moving with control.
(Also read: Yoga Poses to Get Stronger Legs)
Know your boundaries
As stated above, it’s important not to push yourself too far. You should strive to go slightly more than your last session, but remember that progress requires practice.
Move into poses and stretches only to an extent where you feel a stretch, not a painful pull. It is difficult (and dangerous) to go into a front split right away if you could never do it before. This can cause hamstring pulls and knee pain.
(Also read: 7 Signs You’re Overtraining and Need More Rest)
Go slow and steady
Learn to sync your breathing with stretching. Control your breath and move slowly. Instead of pushing your body in a quick jerking motion, use your exhales to ease yourself into the stretches.
(Also read: 8 Yoga Poses That Will Calm You Down Before Bedtime)