Stretching is an innate, intuitive function to reset connective tissue and musculoskeletal tension in your body. It is an extremely beneficial practice that can increase your flexibility, range of motion, strength, and vitality and decrease muscle soreness. There are a multitude of ways to approach stretching. Here are a few tips to consider to make it a safe and beneficial practice:
Stretching is also about joint fluidity
While stretching appears to target soft tissue in the body (muscles, tendons, etc.) it is also essential for maintaining joint fluidity and flexibility. Never force a joint to move too quickly or beyond its range.
Stretching should NOT be painful.
A stretch should not be painful or cause you to grip against tension. Pain is NOT “weakness leaving the body.” Pain is a message from your nervous system that something is “off” and will further protect an area of the body by giving it more tension. This is why you can’t force a stretch. Honor your nervous system by finding an end that feels good, then wait for the stretch sensation to soften, giving the body time to adapt.
Explore the different benefits of static vs. dynamic stretching.
A static stretch is one where a joint/muscle is elongated and sustained for a period of time. A dynamic stretch is one where a joint is moved repeatedly through a full range of motion. Use dynamic stretching in warm-ups to other more intensive activities and to maintain or increase agility. Use static stretching as cool-downs following more intensive activities and to improve flexibility.