Stretching out and practicing proper stretching is as important to the physical being as food, water, and shelter. Without this simple, key exercise, the body will not function properly and will be more prone to injury.
There are tremendous benefits from stretching which impact the muscles, ligaments, bone structure, digestive system and organ health and even brain function. By stretching you are improving flexibility in the spine, which leads to better overall health as you increase the flow of energy and bodily fluids through the spinal column and out in every direction. The nervous system could have impinged if the body isn’t stretched out, causing the feeling of pinched nerves and muscle tightness and nagging pain. The spine stays better aligned when it is kept flexible through stretching, and this provides better blood circulation which improves overall health, including brain health. When the spine is kept flexible, the range of motion increases, which then exercises all the muscles in the body and when muscles in the body get stretched and get more blood flow through them, there’s less chance of injury and more opportunity for growth and vibrancy. If muscles remain tight, this pulls on areas of the spine and skeletal system, causing imbalances by pulling on one side of the body or one area of the body and forcing the other side of the body to compensate. If this type of condition goes unchecked for extended periods of time, then bigger issues can be developed which could require more intensive therapy to treat the problem. Braces, traction, and physical therapy could be required to fix issues that go unchecked for extended periods of time.
When blood, fluids and the nervous system’s electrical energy all flow through the body without being stalled like a big traffic jam on an interstate crossing intersection, then the body feels better and more vibrant and the brain functions better. If the body is not regularly stretched, the effect becomes on where the interstate traffic slows to a crawl, the lanes narrow and there are more anger and frustration by motorists trying to get through. The body just won’t function at its peak performance level. This is not saying that everyone should strive to be a yogi or an athlete, but for each body, the benefit of simple stretching goes beyond what can be written here.
A simple stretching program should start by selecting a handful of stretches and sticking with them for a couple of weeks, stretching at least 4 days a week. The stretching routing should not take long, perhaps 15 minutes to start and once the body gets adjusted to that wonderful feeling, then the regimen should be increased to 30 minutes. There are other programs in yoga and athletics which take on a full hour of stretching, but this will not be covered here.
Start with a ‘simple 7’, or a core set of 7 stretches that will get the body to start responding to a stretching routine. It may very well be difficult to get this routine going, but there’s no rush and no pressure. The individual must go into this with an open mind that something is better than nothing and a simple stretching routine is the beginning. It might take more than 2 weeks for the body to respond positively, no pressure.
The first 7 stretches should cover the entire body. The key here is to first stand erect, feet shoulder width apart or if this is not possible, try to sit with the spine erect and imagine the top of the head being pulled away as the feet extend downward into the earth. Long, deep breaths must be practiced as a major component to learning how to stretch. The breathing must facilitate relaxation, which is needed in order to properly and safely stretch.
To keep it simple, the first stretch should slowly awaken the spine. The second stretch should loosen the hips. The third stretch should focus on the upper torso and the shoulders. The fourth stretch should go back down to the legs and stretch the hamstrings and front of the legs. The Fifth stretch should stretch the knees, calves, and ankles. The sixth stretch should try to work the neck and arms and the final stretch should be a full-body stretch. These are just examples, as a plethora of stretches that focus each area can be found online.