3 Types of Stretches to Improve your Flexibility + Bonus Chair Yoga Video

It's not enough to build muscle and achieve aerobic fitness. We need to be flexible, too. Stretching can help, and chair yoga is a great way to integrate stretching into your daily routine. 





You may think of stretching as something performed only by runners or gymnasts. But we all need to stretch to protect our mobility and prevent injury. 


"A lot of people don't understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should be daily," says David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.


Why stretching is important


So why do we need to stretch anyways?


Stretching:


As a result, it can get you feeling better and improve your ability to navigate your daily life!


Stretching can also help you to: 

  • Improve Your Posture

  • Speed Up Your Recovery

  • Reduce Your Risk of Injury

  • Enhance your Performance  


Where to start


With a body full of muscles, the idea of daily stretching may seem overwhelming to you. But remember, you don't have to stretch every muscle you have every day. The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities. Try incorporating stretches that target your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, psoas, and quadriceps. Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial to counterbalance increases in sitting in front of a computer and being on other "screens."


Suppose you are working with any injuries or physical challenges. In that case, you may wish to find a physical therapist or yoga therapist who can assess your muscle strength and tailor a stretching program to fit your needs. If you have chronic conditions such as Parkinson's disease or arthritis, you'll want to clear a new stretching regimen with your doctor before you start.


The cumulative effect of stretching


Stretching once today won't magically give you perfect flexibility. You'll need to do it over time and remain committed to the process. "It may have taken you many months to get tight muscles, so you're not going to be perfectly flexible after one or two sessions," says physical therapist David Nolan of Massachusetts General Hospital. "It takes weeks to months to get flexible, and you'll have to continue working on it to maintain it."


The good news is there are different ways to integrate stretching into your daily life. Find something that works for you! 


What are 3 Types of Stretching Exercises and When to Use Them?


Stretching can be implemented in a number of different ways. 


Here are three main types of stretching exercises: 


  • Static Stretching: Hold the stretch in a stationary position for at least 10 seconds per side (I like 30-60 seconds to several minutes)

  • Dynamic Stretching- Ease into the stretch, and then ease back out. Try and get a little further each time.

  • PNF: Contract the muscle isometrically as hard as you can for 5 seconds, then stretch that same muscle. 


When most people think of "stretching", they think of static stretching.


With static stretching, you slowly ease into a position that places the desired muscle under tension. Most people recommend using static stretching after your warm-up, at the end of your session, or on your recovery days.


Try this half kneeling hip flexor stretch


Somewhat different to static stretching, dynamic stretching is stretching with movement


With dynamic stretching, your body slowly moves into a position that produces a stretch and is then eased out of it almost immediately. You then repeat this process, gradually increasing your range of motion with each movement. As I am sure you could have guessed, dynamic stretching is typically performed for repetitions (10-20 pulses), rather than for a set amount of time.


Because dynamic stretching also warms up your muscle tissue through movement, it is the perfect option before your workout.


Try this Supine Hamstring Stretch



And finally, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (or PNF, for short) stretching is a pretty unique type of stretching that actually requires the use of a partner or a strap. 


With PNF stretching, you actively contract your muscle isometrically (without moving) against resistance provided by your partner or a strap for 5-10 seconds. Immediately after the contraction, you then begin stretching that same muscle. 


PNF stretching is great for increasing range of motion and flexibility before training. But it can be a little impractical because it requires help.


Try this bench assisted Quad Stretch (you can also use a couch or stool) 



What are the Benefits of Stretching with Chair Yoga


Chair yoga uses many of the same poses and stretches as traditional yoga but performed in or with a chair's assistance. It is perfect for increasing flexibility, balance, and coordination. It also doesn't exert any pressure on the knees, unlike other yoga forms, which can exacerbate tendonitis issues.


Chair yoga is also great since many of us spend so much time sitting in the chair already! When we bring our wellness practices into the spaces we occupy frequently, it makes our wellness more sustainable and integrated. 


Let's try it out! 


Try this Grounding and Restorative Chair Yoga Video for a 10-Minute Stretch Break




How did you feel after practicing this chair-based stretching routine? Let us know in the comments.

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