Stretching is important for moms in so many ways. For stress busting, pain relief, suppleness, optimal alignment and postnatal healing, regular stretching is essential.
But the odd squat, lunge or calf stretch half-heartedly topping and tailing a mega workout isn’t enough to ensure that you experience the huge benefits of stretching. Stretching needs to be done right to get the most from it.
Five Tips to Maximise the Benefits of Stretching
- Be in the moment: Are you talking to the muscles you are stretching? If not, it’s time to start. Think about them, give them your full attention, focus on how good the stretch feels, breathe with the stretch to allow it to reach its full potential. Benchmark your stretch and how far you can take it and notice the muscle becoming increasingly supple over time.
- Hit your wall, don’t try & break it down: Breathing with your stretch gets oxygen to your muscles and may allow you to stretch a little further. But when you hit the wall where the stretch no longer feels comfortable and you experience the first sensation of resistance, STOP. If your body is shaking, straining or hurting, you are overstretching.
- Stretching isn’t a competitive sport: If your neighbour in a yoga class can stretch further than you, so be it. While she may be able to touch her feet in a forward bend or triangle pose, you might need to rest your hands on a block. That’s cool, you need to listen to your own body, rather than try to compete with people who are more flexible.
- Slow and steady is the key: Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. In between stretches, allow the muscle time to release fully. If you rush, your muscles become tense and resist the stretch.
- The force should not be with you: There is no shortcut to a more supple body. Your muscles need to be stretched consistently over time to gain suppleness and strength. Never force anything and be patient.
So now we’ve got the theory in place, it’s time to put stretches into practise. Incorporate the following stretches into your daily routine and your body will soon start to feel the benefits. You will feel looser, less tense, more energetic and less blighted by aches and pains.
Five “Can’t Live Without ‘Em” Body Brightening Stretches
- The Supersize Stretch: Take a big step forward and land with one foot well in front of the other. Invert the front foot and keep both legs straight. Don’t tuck your tailbone under. Grip a resistance band with both hands and raise your arms above your head with your hands wider than shoulder width apart and the band taut. Bend forward with a straight back, extending over the front leg, then come back up again and take the band right over your head and down behind you to reach your butt. Repeat 5 times, then switch legs and repeat the set on the other side.
Do you feel the speed bumps in your shoulders and back iron out? Do you feel loosened up and more supple throughout the torso? Good!
- The Leg Lengthener: Stand with the toes of one foot raised by a half moon roller (or rolled up towel) and the other foot flat on the floor to the side. Both legs are straight and there is no tension in your backside or thighs. Draw your belly button in, but keep your butt untucked and relaxed. Gradually walk the leg that is not resting on the roller to the front, side and back of the roller, while keeping an upright posture.
How do those calves feel now? Longer, leaner, lighter? Great!
- The Back Brightener: Stand back from your balance ball and bend forward with a straight back and arms outstretched, resting on the ball. Lift your tailbone up towards the ceiling. Slowly shift your weight from one foot to the other, rolling out your thighs and placing weight on the outsides of your feet, lifting your feet at the arches.
Do you feel like you grew an inch or two? Stand tall, mama!
- Reach For The Stars: From a standing position, jump your feet apart. Lift your arms parallel to the floor, stretched out to the sides, palms down. Invert your right foot slightly and turn your left foot out to the left at 90 degrees. Bend your left leg so that your knee is in line with the centre of your ankle. Exhale and extend your torso to the left, directly over your left thigh, bending from the hip joint. Rest your left forearm on your left thigh, as you reach your right arm towards the ceiling, alongside your face. Look up to your raised arm. Stay in this pose for a few breaths; then inhale to come up. Reverse and repeat to the right.
Do your waist and arms feel stretched and limber? You bet!
- The Comfortable Corkscrew: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take your arms out to the sides and rest them with palms facing down. Allow both your knees to drop to one side and relax your legs completely, feeling the stretch in the lower back and the side of your waist. Keep both shoulders on the floor and turn your head gently in the opposite direction. Hold for at least 30 seconds before coming back to the centre and switching to the other side.
I love the way this irons out kinks in the back and whittles the waist!
Let’s stretch ourselves
Stretching feels so good! Do it now, do it right, do it regularly – and feel your body gain vibrancy and lightness. Feeling flexible and pain-free is anti-aging, so ditch the creams and start stretching!