Stretching and Posture

By lengthening, loosening and strengthening muscles through stretching you don’t just become more flexible; you improve your posture as well!

Good posture is the maintenance of natural spine shape and is important for health and wellbeing. In the modern world people are spending more time at desks, in the car, hunched over a laptop and sitting in general. This causes a weakening of supportive muscles in the legs and abs, the shortening of hamstrings and quadriceps, the tightening of hip muscles and a shift in the angle of your pelvis and shoulders. All these things will in turn cause a misalignment of the spine and poor posture.

Photo Credit: joelogon via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: joelogon via Compfight cc

Poor posture can cause problems like lower lung capacity, repetitive strain injuries, higher chance of injuries in general, back pain and conditions like rounded shoulders or a pot belly. It can be corrected and maintained by using ergonomic furniture at the office, continual awareness and adjustment of posture when sitting and standing, taking regular breaks from sitting and of course, regular stretching!

Photo Credit: number657 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: number657 via Compfight cc

Does your office have regular stretch breaks? Research has shown that by taking a break for stretching, office workers will improve their posture, mood and work efficiency. If you don’t, you should speak to your boss about implementing a stretch break during the day or holding a seminar on proper ergonomics and posture tips. They might be interested in Stretch Break, which is software that can be installed on workers computers to remind them to take breaks and lead them in a stretching session. Or if you want to focus on your posture individually there is also an app called Ergonomics that instructs you on equipment setup, gives you workplace specific stretches and reminds you take a break from sitting. Alternatively, you could just follow a stretching plan like the one pictured below.

via http://www.mindfulwellnessmassageandbodywork.com/media/Computer%20&%20Desk%20Stretches%20001.jpg

6 Times When It is Better To Be Flexible

Being flexible is great for your physical and mental health wellbeing, but it also can come in handy in these real life situations.

1. Limbo competitions.

Do you want to impress that cute man/woman you just met on your cruise ship? Or win awesome limbo competition prizes? Or do you just want to go as low as you can go? Studies show that being flexible is the best way to win limbo contests and reap all the fame and fortune that comes with it.

Hermes Conrad from Futurama. Sorry for potato quality!

2. When you get old.

Maintaining flexibility as you age can prevent a lot injuries and complications that are common amongst the elderly. Regular stretching will make you more flexible, healthy and improve coordination. This means less chance of falls, muscle strains and back problems, which can be extremely painful and difficult to manage and fully recover from when you’re older.

3. In the bedroom.

Better flexibility means better positions and better sex. Whether it allows you to hold your favourite position longer or try out some of the more challenging positions in The Kama Sutra, being flexible will definitely improve your sex life. So start stretching and winky smiling now 😉

Photo Credit: JPBennett1 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: JPBennett1 via Compfight cc

4. In the game.

Being flexible means better performance in many different sports. Not only does it prevent injury, it also improves things like power, vertical leap and kicking and throwing distance and occasionally it creates incredible plays, catches, tackles, etc.

5. At the office.

Better flexibility means better posture. Posture is extremely important in many aspects of life but it can particularly affect how you work. Research shows that proper posture can boost energy and increase brain function which is essential for work.

6. Running away to the circus.

Thinking about cutting off all ties to the real world and running off with the circus? Well being flexible would certainly help your cause. Trapeze artists, tumblers, mimes and contortionists all need to be extremely flexible to perform their amazing individual acts.

Photo Credit: lydia mann via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: lydia mann via Compfight cc

5 Great Yoga Poses For Flexibility and Posture

Yoga is a great way of exercising the body and mind and has a range of benefits that have been discussed in a previous blog post (which can be found here). One benefit is that it can increase flexibility and improve posture by stretching and strengthening muscles and correcting the spine. Below are 5 poses, which can be done by beginners and advanced yoga lovers alike, that do exactly that!

–     Eye of the Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana)

Eye of the needle is an extremely relieving pose that will help stretch your hips and glutes. Lie on your back, put the sole of your right foot on the floor and then place your left leg across your right knee. For some this will be enough to feel the stretch, for those more flexible you can hold your right knee and bring it closer towards your chest. Hold this pose, release and then swap legs.

photo

–   The Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

The lunge is a good pose because it can be modified for any level of flexibility. For beginners, a standard lunge should be enough to feel the stretch. If you’re more advanced, try putting your forearms on the ground or lifting your back foot to your bum. This pose is great for stretching muscles in the hips and quads.

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–     Eagle Pose (Garudusana)

This is a relatively simple pose that stretches the shoulders, which can become tight from driving a car or sitting at a desk. This pose can be done in a seated position, or if you want a bit more of a challenge you can stand on one leg and cross the other leg over it. This method strengthens the legs and improves balance as well as stretches the shoulders. Remember to do both sides.

8-eagle-pose-garudasana

–     Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

A great pose for beginners, the locust will energize you, warm you up, strengthen your back muscles and improve your posture. Simply lie on your stomach and then lift everything off the ground, keeping your palms facing the floor and your neck elongated. You can go further by placing your hands behind your head, which will also stretch your chest and shoulders.

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–     Seated Wide Legged Straddle (Upavistha Konasana)

This pose stretches the hamstrings and calves and improves posture by elongating the spine. Simply take a seated position with your legs flat on the floor in front of you and then open your legs as wide as is comfortable. Point your toes to the ceiling and engage the hamstrings and hold this position. For beginners, sit on some padding or lean against a wall if sitting up by yourself can’t be done. For those more advanced, bend forward between your legs as far as you can while keeping your back straight and then hold this position.

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For best results try to stretch every day and as always, remember to smile! 🙂

M

When Not To Stretch

Stretching each day is extremely important for flexibility and can provide a wide range of benefits both physically and mentally. However, there are many myths and misconceptions about the importance and usefulness of stretching. In fact, sometimes stretching is not the best thing to do. This includes:

  • Before professional sport

Recent research has concluded that static stretching is good for increasing flexibility but not suitable for warm-ups before any sort of sport that requires short bursts of power (e.g. sprinting, throwing, lifting, etc).

Stretching before a sprint race will reduce speed. Photo Credit: TexasEagle via Compfight cc
Stretching before a sprint race will reduce speed.
Photo Credit: TexasEagle via Compfight cc

This is because statically stretching a muscle only lengthens it and decreases tension. If you think of the muscle as a rubber band, static stretching before a sporting event or power exercise like weight lifting will make the muscle less elastic and actually proves to make you less powerful.
For a good alternative for a warm-up, try dynamic stretching.

  • When you’re cold

As Stretchy the Sun would say – “Stretching cold muscles isn’t cool. A hot tip is to warm them up first.” Stretching cold means there is less blood flow and less range of movement and this can cause excess tension that can lead to pulled or strained muscle injuries.

Stretchy The Sun - Unofficial campaign mascot that I just made up. Photo Credit: aarongilson via Compfight cc
Stretchy The Sun – Unofficial campaign mascot that I just made up.
Photo Credit: aarongilson via Compfight cc

A simple warm-up like jogging on the spot or doing some jumping jacks will mean less chance of injury and more efficient and effective stretches.

  • To get rid of DOMS

While stretching a muscle that feels tight and tense can feel very relieving, unfortunately it won’t help alleviate the pain of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is the soreness felt in muscles that occurs after exercise, particularly after intense, new or eccentric contraction exercising.

Recent studies have proven that stretching won’t help ease the pain of DOMS and might actually keep you feeling sorer longer. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do to get rid of DOMS except wait and rest.

Stretch the Animal Inside

Stretch and Smile has scoured the web for the best animal stretching pictures, gifs and videos and has put them into story form for your enjoyment. Perhaps these natural stretchers will motivate you to start stretching, or at least start smiling!

 

Everyone can find it hard to get out of bed without a stretch…

photo credit: originalpozer via photopin cc
photo credit: originalpozer via photopin cc

You should start with your arms…

via http://cheezburger.com/5806926848
via http://cheezburger.com/5806926848

Then your back…

photo credit: BrianScottImages via photopin cc
photo credit: BrianScottImages via photopin cc

Then your legs…

via http://giphy.com/gifs/stretch-cat-kitten-EMxvBrMaMoGbK
via http://giphy.com/gifs/stretch-cat-kitten-EMxvBrMaMoGbK

And then a full body stretch…

photo credit: GYLo via photopin cc
photo credit: GYLo via photopin cc

Now you should be ready to face any challenges the day might give you!

animal-gifs-rabbit-olympian
via http://www.pbh2.com/pets-animals/animal-gifs/2/

 

By mid-afternoon it’s time to hit the gym, so you warm up by stretching with a friend…

via http://giphy.com/gifs/cats-synchronized-BOaEM3TkP1uUg
via http://giphy.com/gifs/cats-synchronized-BOaEM3TkP1uUg

And then with an exercise ball.

photo credit: oppositeofsuper via photopin cc
photo credit: oppositeofsuper via photopin cc

After the gym it’s time for your yoga class…

http://cheezburger.com/7557676032
via http://cheezburger.com/7557676032

Some people are better at it than others…

via http://giphy.com/gifs/dog-submission-stretching-8ThYYhGQnUg2k
via http://giphy.com/gifs/dog-submission-stretching-8ThYYhGQnUg2k

And some people just look silly.

photo credit: lilli2de via photopin cc
photo credit: lilli2de via photopin cc

With all this stretching you should be feeling much more bendy.

via http://giphy.com/gifs/MXe0JyzKUTpbG
via http://giphy.com/gifs/MXe0JyzKUTpbG

But don’t forget the rules of stretching! Don’t stretch too fast…

via http://giphy.com/gifs/vHinHbgSXx5ao
via http://giphy.com/gifs/vHinHbgSXx5ao

And stop stretching if you feel pain.

photo credit: PamLink via photopin cc
photo credit: PamLink via photopin cc

Remember that flexibility is important no matter how small…

photo credit: eschipul via photopin cc
photo credit: eschipul via photopin cc

Or big you are.

photo credit: SubyRex via photopin cc
photo credit: SubyRex via photopin cc

 

When you start getting sleepy it’s good to stretch before bed…

http://giphy.com/gifs/reaction-snow-wolf-13PkR0XI8u0bqE
http://giphy.com/gifs/reaction-snow-wolf-13PkR0XI8u0bqE

Stretch your legs…

photo credit: Arctic Wolf Pictures via photopin cc
photo credit: Arctic Wolf Pictures via photopin cc

Your back…

photo credit: Cloudtail via photopin cc
photo credit: Cloudtail via photopin cc

And your arms…

photo credit: fhisa via photopin cc
photo credit: fhisa via photopin cc

And then hit the hay.

via http://giphy.com/gifs/ItKtBnHSpQ16o
via http://giphy.com/gifs/ItKtBnHSpQ16o

 

M

 

Stretch the Body – Physical Benefits of Stretching

Did you know that stretching could help you lose weight? It is just one of many physical benefits of a regular stretching program. By stretching at least 3-4 days a week, if not everyday, you can expect to see the following positive effects:

–                      Improved flexibility and greater range of movement:

Probably the biggest benefit of stretching is the improvement and maintenance of good flexibility. Flexibility is the range of motion available in each joint and it is considered a major component of physical fitness. It is important to keep in mind though that this isn’t a quick process. A regular daily stretching routine will see progress occur after approximately 3-6 weeks and will continue to develop and maintain flexibility.

photo credit: a4gpa via photopin cc
photo credit: a4gpa via photopin cc

This flexibility gives host to a range of other physical benefits such as:

  • Less chance of injury
  • Less chance of back pain
  • Better coordination
  • Better posture

–                      Physical Exercise:

Stretching is a very light and easy form of physical activity but it can often be overlooked or disregarded by people who want to exercise. Stretching is great because it can be done before, during, after or instead of exercise. It can be a great replacement for a work-out so that you don’t break the routine of exercising regularly.

By exercising you are also benefitting from:

  • Improved circulation
  • More energy
  • Faster recovery
  • Weight loss
photo credit: TipsTimesAdmin via photopin cc
photo credit: TipsTimesAdmin via photopin cc

These physical benefits, when combined with other benefits like relaxation and meditation, are proof that stretching each day is very important for physical fitness. If you want to start regularly stretching you should follow Stretch and Smile on Facebook and Twitter for regular stretching reminders and interesting articles on all things flexibility.

References:

The Flexibility Coach, 4 Ways Stretching Can Help You Lose Weight (Yes, really!), 2010.

Duane Knudson, Stretching: From science to practice, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 1998.

Charles B. Corbin & Larry Noble, Flexibility, Journal of Physical Education and Recreation, 1980.

Pozo-Cruz & Adsuar, Reanalysis of a tailored web-based exercise programme for office workers with sub-acute low back pain: Assessing the stage of change in behaviour, Psychology, Health and Medicine, 2013.

Anonymous, The Importance of a Good Stretch, Ebony, 2002.

Bronwen de Klerk, The Importance of Stretching, 2009.