Consistency: it’s the byword I continually emphasize about doing the work of Pilates. And that includes stretching. But stretching involves much more than just a few minutes of feel-good-working-out-the-kinks time. Stretching creates physical equilibrium in the body. Drilling down below the surface of the skin, stretching includes the fascia, connective tissue, ligaments and tendons, muscles and, finally, internal organs. All of these parts of the body are affected by a consistent stretch regimen. By stretching just the ligaments and tendons alone, we create more strength and joint stability. Hip openers and throat openers are also beneficial for our emotional well-being. We hold a lot of emotions in those areas. The fascia can also be tight due to holding in stress and emotions. Renowned Pilates expert Madeline Black cites these benefits of stretching:
Increases range of motion
Improves performance in physical activities
Increases blood flow to the muscles
Helps to heal and prevent back pain
Improves joint function
Works as a stress reliever
Before plunging into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. Use these tips for your stretching routine:
Don’t consider stretching as just a warm-up. You may injure yourself by stretching cold muscles incorrectly. Stretch when muscles are warmed up. For example, walk or bike to warm up. Static stretches could do more harm.
Strive for symmetry.
Bring movement into your stretching.
Know when to exercise caution. Stretching won’t prevent an overuse injury.
Always stretch when finishing your activity.
The diaphragm is in the center of the body. How we breathe and stretch affects respiratory muscles where tissues are attached to the diaphragm. The breath alone elevates the diaphragm. When the diaphragm goes up, it pulls on the pelvic floor. On its way down, the diaphragm pulls on the heart. In addition, the scalenes (three paired cervical muscles running from the cervical vertebrae to the upper two ribs) are attached to the tendons of the diaphragm. In the lower part of the body, the psoas (pronounced “soaz”) muscles on each side of the back are attached to the tendons of the diaphragm from the bottom. On a good day, proper breathing can move the diaphragm one inch – as long as we are stretching consistently.Stretch your tissue, decompress your spine and open up your body so you can stay young and healthy through movement.So if you think stretching is preventing you from getting to the “real” workout, think again. Stretching has many benefits that lie below the surface. Commit to a stretching regimen and you will see – and feel – the results.