We could all use a good stretch. It works great for chronic sitters, party animals, and athletes.
Proper stretching brings blood to your muscles and enables your joints to use their full power. It will also strengthen your posture and athletic condition. By performing regular stretching you will also run at a lower risk of injuries and pain.
But, how can one know which muscles to target or how to perform individual stretching during yoga classes or the regular flexibility routine?
You probably need some extra information on the issue, and keeping this in mind will help you determine which stretches could bring you closer to your main goal.
Any pain different than the normal, ‘good’ pain indicates that you are probably doing something wrong, locate the muscle that is affected by such pain and switch to other technique to prevent any further injuring.
You should feel the stretch right in the core of the muscle you are stimulating. Be careful, if you can feel some sort of pressure or strain in your joints, try to reduce the pressure, because you may be pushing too hard.
When performing a stretch, focus on your breathing, and do the movements as natural as possible.
Concentrating on the time you hold the stretch keeps you far from the actual success. Consider focusing on the way your muscles relax and gain their natural length.
Usually this takes 5-30 seconds. If you feel like the stretch does not affect your muscles, change the technique and choose any other that fits your muscles.
We give you some handy illustrations designed by Vicky Timon, a world popular yoga expert and author of the ‘Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises,’ and James Kligallon, CSCS, designer of Mazio’s Body Maintenance Program. Each of them is followed by appropriate expert description.
1. Camel pose
It is an effective stretch for both rectus abdominus and external obliques. According to experts, it is sort of a stretch that mostly fits individuals with great flexibility.
Sit on your hills, set the hands behind you and try pushing the hips up and forward at the same time. However, you should not apply too much pressure on your lumbar spine. If you are having any sort of trouble with your neck, remember not to tilt your head back.
2. Wide forward fold
It is a great stretch to get your adductors going. It stimulates both adductors and hamstrings, and opening your hips is pretty much all the effort it requires.
Bend your knees and keep your spine straight. Once you feel how your muscles start to release, straighten the legs, round the back and reach for the feet. Gently pull on the bottom of the balls of your both feet.
This will release your calf muscles. Beginners may not succeed to reach for their feet, so using a belt or a towel will help quite a bit here. You can also do the stretch when lying on the back, and make sure you push both legs up the wall.
3. Frog pose
Another way to engage your adductors. You may want to use a yoga mat for this one, because its performation requires a softer surface, as the stretch for the groin may apply some pressure on your knees, too. Rest both hands and knees. Next, start widening your knees until your groin muscles are well stretched. For a bit differing stretching, keep pushing your hips back and forward.
4. Wide side lunge pose
Work on your adductors in a different way. Start off by setting your feet forward in a quite wide stance, while keeping your legs as straight as possible. Use your hands to walk the right food, then bend the right knee while rotating your left toes upwards the ceiling. Do this while you sit in your right hip. Keep in mind that your right foot should remain flat on the floor.
5. Butterfly stretch
The butterfly stretch works great for your adductors. Sit and stick the soles of your feet together. Make sure you sit tall through your sitting bones. Start off your stretch by applying some additional pressure onto your knees, and do this using your hands.
For an optimal stretch of your groin muscles, get your feet nearer to your body. Then, set your feet far from the hips and slowly start to round the upper part of your body. It is an essential step that will get your back muscles loose.
6. Forearm extensor stretch
Now, switch to your forearm extensor. Pack both your shoulders and back down, then rotate your shoulder outward into an optimal position to stretch and stimulate your forearm muscle.
Once you bring your body into this posture, apply some pressure on the other hand to start off the stretching technique. Commence the stretch by getting the tips of your fingers close, almost together, forming a sort of a tea cup.
7. Lateral side flexion of the neck with hand assistance
Bring your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM’ and upper trapezius in power. Stretch your neck as farther as you can, then carefully drop your ear towards your shoulder. Remember, you should not collapse your cervical spine.
Get this stretch some further and sit on a chair and stick onto the seat. In this way the tension down your arm and neck will become consistent, enabling you to target your upper traps.
8. Neck rotation stretch
Get your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM’ going in slightly different manner. Slowly rotate your neck and keep your chin a bit high. This will provide that your SCM is isolated. If you are into a more advanced stretching, apply some pressure using the opposite hand from the way you rotate your neck.
9. Neck extension stretch
Another great way to stimulate your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM.’ Place your hands on the hips, while keeping your spine straight. Start tilting your head back. This is another stretch that requires caution, because you do not want to collapse your cervical spine, right?
10. Half kneeling quad / Hip flexor stretch
It is an amazing way to stimulate your psoas and quadriceps. Get your body in a half-kneeling posture. Set your right hip forward. You should be able to feel the stretching in the front part of your hip while doing so. Get your back foot towards your back glute to add more stretch to your hip flexors.
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