I’m excited to introduce you today to Sara Lou from www.saralouyoga.com. Not only is she a talented yoga instructor, she is an expert in the “de-stress” space. The first thing you’ll do when you work with her is take her free 5-Day Stress Detox Challenge. It’s designed to help you feel more positive, happy and focused — all without having to take a vacation! I’m thrilled to have her sharing her passion an expertise with you today. Enjoy!
Stretching our muscles is a great way to stay lean and fit. It helps tremendously to keep the body supple after a hard workout, especially after doing weight training. But most of us have the wrong mindset about stretching– we think it’s about the end goal of having our bodies look a certain way and that almost always leads to pain and torn muscle tissue. As a yoga teacher who’s’ taught hundreds of classes– and students– I’ve seen too many people pushing their bodies way too far and it needs to stop.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think you’re overdoing your stretches:
Is it painful?
Stretching should NEVER EVER feel painful. I often like to tell my students to find the tipping point between discomfort and pain. Discomfort is OK, pain is not. If your stretch feels painful or if you feel any pulling, back off immediately.
Are you forcing it?
All too often we think we have to flex and tense our muscles into a stretch, when in reality the exact opposite is what allows the stretch to deepen. When we force our muscles we tighten them and prevent them from loosening and opening. Letting go is an essential part of stretching, listening to your breath and exhaling as you move deeper into the feelings of the stretch is what works. That’s why yoga and stretching go hand in hand– the more you let your breath relax your body, the deeper you stretch.
Are you in pain the next day?
Pain the day after a stretch is a reliable way of knowing that you’ve overdone it. Pulled hamstrings or pulled muscles in any other area of the body are particularly painful and can take days, weeks or even months to properly heal. It’s OK to feel sore after a good stretch, but if the tender areas are impeding you from everyday activities then that’s a sign you’ve gone too far.
Is your body ready?
Our bodies are holistic machines and when we stretch one muscle we are almost always strengthening another. With that being said, there are many advanced stretches that require support from surrounding muscles to execute properly. So the next time you’re wondering why your hamstrings can’t get into a good stretch, you might want to consider strengthening your quads and/or glute muscles. If your surrounding muscles can’t support a stretch, the stretched muscle works even harder and the stretch becomes painful. And when a stretch is painful, you’ve gone too far.
Are you breathing?
If you have to hold your breath to push your body to do something it can’t do while relaxed you’ve gone too far. Stretching is about letting go and releasing (read above) and if a stretch can’t be done by taking deep breaths in and out then that’s a sign your body isn’t ready for the stretch. Try taking a lighter version of whatever stretch you’re attempting to achieve.
The most important part of stretching is not how it looks but how it feels.
If your body feels good and you feel like you can get deeper into a stretch, stay there. But if you feel pain, aren’t breathing and are tensing up your muscles, back off immediately. Avoid injury by simply listening to what your body is telling you. And enjoy it! Stretching can feel so good for your body if you let it.