You should all know that you need to stretch, whether you are a chronic sitter, a weekend warrior, or a daily exerciser. Stretching helps your blood reach your muscles and your joints move through their full range of motion, but it also improves your posture and athletic performance and reduces the risk of injuries and pain.
How do you know which muscles you are actually stretching or if you are performing each stretch the right way while you do yoga or the flexibility routine?
Well, here is a little knowledge on the topic, and having this in your back pocket, you can opt for the best stretches that best fit your goals. In case you start feeling pain, and not the regular, good pain, but the stretchy one when you know that something does not feel right, you should pinpoint the muscle that gives you the trouble and change the technique you have been using in order to avoid getting injured.
These stretches should be felt in the belly of your muscle. However, you should not feel pressure or strain in your joints, and if you do, it means that you are pushing too far. During the stretching, concentrate on your breathing and make sure these movements are as natural as possible.
Stop thinking about the time you are holding the stretch, but instead, start concentrating on feeling your muscles relaxing and returning to their natural, resting length. This may take about five to thirty seconds. If a stretch does not feel like it is doing something for your body muscles, change it and try another one.
The beautiful illustrations we present you are made by Vicky Timon, a yoga expert and author of “Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises”, and James Kilgallon, CSCS, creator of Mazio’s Body Maintenance Program, contributed by giving the expert commentary.
1. Camel Pose
Muscles emphasized: Rectus Abdominus and External Obliques. This stretch is though most appropriate for people who already have a good flexibility. Sitting on your heels, put your hands behind you, pushing your hips up and forward. Do not put too much pressure on your lumbar spine. Also, in case you have problems with your neck, do not drop your head back.
2. Wide Forward Fold
Muscles emphasized: adductors. This exercise is great for stretching the adductors and the hamstrings, and you just need to open the hips. Start with your knees bent, holding your spine straight. As you start feeling your muscles starting to release, straighten your legs, round out your back and reach for your feet. Pull easily on the bottom of the balls of your feet in order to release the calf muscles. If you are beginner, you might not be able to reach your feet, so then you will need to use a belt or a towel. This stretch can also be performed while you lye on your back and push your legs up the wall.
3. Frog Pose
Muscles emphasized: adductors. This stretch for your groins can put pressure on your knees as well, so it is recommended that you perform it on a soft surface. Rest your hands and knees, and then bring your knees wider until you feel your groin muscles well stretched. You will feel a bit differing stretches as you actively push your hips back and forward.
4. Wide Side Lunge Pose
Muscles emphasized: adductors. Begin by putting your both feet forward in a wide stance, holding your legs as straight as possible. With your hands, walk to your right foot and then bend your right knee and rotate your left toes up to the ceiling, sitting in your right hip. Make sure your right foot maintains flat on the ground.
5. Butterfly Stretch
Muscles emphasized: adductors. Sitting, bring the soles of your feet together and sit tall through your sit bones. Develop this stretch by putting pressure on your knees, using your hands. If you want to stretch your groin muscles better, hold your feet closer to your body. Now, make sure your feet are far from your hips and slowly round your upper body to loose your back muscles.
6. Forearm Extensor Stretch
Muscles emphasized: Forearm extensor. Pack your shoulders and your back down and rotate the shoulder towards outside in order to get into the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. After you have managed to bring your body into this position, put pressure on your other hand to start the stretch. You can develop this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in the shape of a tea cup.