Just touch your toes! We learned it as a young child. We practiced it on our first-grade soccer teams. And it’s the first thing we tend to cut out of our workouts as we have gotten older. I have been guilty of it too. When I have an hour to do a workout, I don’t want to “waste time” stretching. But yoga has taught me how important stretching your body is. Yoga incorporates the cultivation of flexibility into its practice.
The most important part of stretching is that it prevents injury. After a workout, stretching is extremely important. If you don’t, when you go to work your body the next day, there is a higher chance of you pulling a muscle. Before a workout, dynamic stretching (stretches that are performed while moving rather than statically, such as lunges, high-knees, and grapevines) helps prevent injury in the workout you’re about to do.
Stretching also helps our bodies to recover quicker. After we stretch, our bodies are in a state that allows the muscles to relax. Otherwise they remain tight until we loosen them.
Increasing our flexibility also allows us to gain full range of motion. For example, when our hamstrings are excessively tight, we cannot ever get into our full running stride. Thus, our performance is hindered.
Flexibility is an important part of being physically fit. It also aids is relaxation in the body and mind. When you touch your toes, you are allowing your muscles in your whole body to relax and act in a natural way (i.e. shoulders, neck, arms, torso, hamstrings). We are always holding up our head and demanding our neck and back muscles to be constantly engaged. As with anything that is constantly being used, they get tired. It’s good to give them a break. Touching your toes is considered an inversion because your head is beneath your heart. This is a stress reliever and it also reduces inflammation because it helps to circulate the blood around your body.
So follow the advice of your first-grade soccer coach…work on touching your toes!
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