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About stretching exercises
When to stretch - Should you stretch after training?
For decades training experts and sport medicine professionals have been telling that you should stretch out well both before and after training in order to avoid muscle, joint and tendon injuries, and to avoid stiffness afterwords. Recent scientific research has thrown doubt about this thesis. Stretching after training may not be necessary to avoid stiffness and problems from the other training.
However, recent sceintific research seems to indicate that the effectiveness of the stretching exercises themself is better when the msucles has been wormed up, and that stretching of cold muscles before training can cause damage.
Therefore it is advicable to warm up the muscles with some kind of workup before stretching or do the stretching exercises when you have allready done all or some of the other workup.
It can be practical to do mainly stretching a couple of days each week. But also such special stretching sessions should begin with some kind of warming exercises that is not actually hard strength or condition training.
This may also
be individual. If you feel that stretching out after the training does you good,
you should stop doing so and set aside sepcial stretching sessions that begin
with some kind of warm-up exercises.
General principles of stretching
- Take a thorrough stretching session at least every second day. During this session you should stretch out all parts of your body: Your arms, neck, torso, pelvic area and legs.
- It is an old principle to stretch out after other types of training. This principle has been questioned in the last years. If you feel this is the best time to stretch out, then do so. If not, wait until you are less tired and do the stretching as a separate session.
- It is probably best for many to have a short stretching session after muscular training and a longer stretching session at a separate time every second day.
- When stretching out, you should bend or twist in the natural movement directions and angles for the body part, and for each body part, you should flex in every natural direction.
- It is good to begin the stretching session with some actitve exercises whith moderate stretching effect to make your muscles and joints warm. You swing your limbs back and forth, bend forward and backwards, twist and roll with your shoulders, torso and pelvic region so that every movement gives a moderate stretching effect.
- Then you do slow exercises with a stronger stretching effect. You bend or twist each limb and your torso until you feel resistance and a little more so that you feel the stretch and the hold the stretch in 30-50 seconds. You can make this stretching even more effective by doing it together with a friend and helping each other. Repeat each stretch at least 3 times with a pause between.
You can find descriptions of many exact exercises in specific books or web-pages. But you can also use your creativity and compose exercises that specifically fit you, as long as you use the principles listed.
More about the rapid stretching exercizes
The meaning of these exercises is to warm up and give all of you a preliminary gentle stretch so that you are ready for the following harder stretching. This method consists of swinging parts of the body fairly fast so that the body part gets some degree of speed. When reaching the resistance point, there will then occur a sudden but gentle impact that helps to pull loose blockages and improve flexibility. By regulating the speed you can make the impact so strong that you feel it stretches but still so gentle that you do not get any pain or injury.
More about the slow stretching exercises
You should bend or twist slowly so that the stretching power at the body part you will stretch is gradually built up. When you feel you cannot bend or twist any more without pain or overstretching, you stop. Then you hold the body part maximally stretched some time.
During this time you will often feel that the body part relax, and you can stretch somewhat more. Then you bend back to an unstretched position again. Repeat each stretching posistion 3-4 times after some relaxing to give maximal effect.
A special kind of slow stretching exercises are yoga exercises. To get the most effect from these exercises you should however hold the stretch somewhat longer that is often described in yoga instructions. And you must breath regularly many times while holding the stretch, instead of breathing just on time in and one time out which for many exercises is the standard way.
Some yoga inspired stretching excercises
A set of special strecting exercises is an important part of the yoga disipline called Hatha Yoga. Here are some simple exercises according to the principles of hatha Yoga.
You can use these exercises as the basic part of your stretching session. When doing the exercises you should be lightly clothed, and the room temperature should be pleasant. You should do them on a carpet laying on the floor. The exercises sould be repeted two or three times.
Lay on the carped on your back with your arms along you feet. Breath out. Swing your arms up and in a bow over your head and backwards behind your head, so that your whole body is stretched from top to toe. Breath in at the same time.
Then bend body your foreward with your hips as the bending point, so your head, breast and stomach rises up, and you get sitting at the floor on your straight legs. Bend your body further foreward as far as you can. At the same time swing your straight arms above your head and extend your arms towards your toes. Try to reach your toes or at least so far out on your legs as possible with your hands. At the same time breath out again. Hold this position some time. You can hold your armes relaxed, or yo can grip around your ancles and help holding the position witn your arms.
The rise up your body to a sitting positions again while breathing in.
Lay on your stomach upon the carpet. You may also have a small pad under your lover stomach area during this exercise to protect your genitals.
Set your hands against the floor at both sides of your shoulders. Breath out. Bend your back backwards as far as you can so that your upper body is lifted from the floor and your stomach is stretched. Breath in at the same time. If necessary also push up with your hands to help bending and lifting. Also bend your neck backwords so you look up in the air. Hold the position some time. Then lower your upper body down again while breathing out.
Spine twist position
Sit at the carpet with your legs straight out. Bend your left knee lifting it above the floor. Move your right foot and calf under your left knee and bend your right knee so your right ancle touches your left hip.
Then swing your right arm at the other side of your left knee so that your right elbow touches the left side of your left knee, and grip with your hand around your left ancle. To do so you have to twist your upper body to the left.
Now twist your upper body even more and stronger to the left as far as you can. You aid the twisting by pushing your right elbow towards the side of your left knee. Hold the position some time.
Then swing back your right arm, pull back your right foot and calf and straighten out your legs again.
Then do the same the other way:
Bend your right knee lifting it above the floor. Move your left foot and calf under your right knee and bend your left knee so your left calf touches your right hip.
Then swing your left arm at the other side of your right knee so that your left elbow touches the right side of your right knee, and grip with your hand around your right ancle.
Twist your upper body to the right as far as you can. You can aid the twisting by pushing your left elbow towards the side of your right knee. Hold the position some time.
Then swing back your left arm, pull back your left foot and calf and straight out your legs again.
Some easy rapid stretching excercises
Here are some easy rapid stretching exercize that are fine to warm up with in the beginning of the sesion.
RAPID ARM STRETCHES
- Stand streight. First swing your streight arms foreward up over your head so that you feel it stretces well. Swing them back to point streight foreward and then swing the streigh out to each side so that you again feel it stretches. Reapeat these swings 5-10 times without pause.
RAPID LEG AND PELVIC STRETCHES
- Stand streight. Then bend your body foreward while pointing your fingers towards tour toes. Try to reach as long as posible downwards with your hands so that you feel it stretches gently at the backside of your legs. Then rise up again. Do this 5-10 times without pause.
- Sit on the floor upon a carpet. Support your torso with your hands at the floor behind you. Flex your legs up and put the soles of your feet at the floor. Then swing down your feet to each side so that you feel it stretches gently at the inner sides of your thighs and then fold your legs together agains. Do this 10-15 times without pause.
- Stand on the floor. Then swing your right leg out to the side so that it stretches. Swing it back again and swing the left leg out to the side. Repeat this 10-15 times. You can make this exercise a little more advanced by bending towards the leg when it is swung out and reach at your toes with your fingers.
RAPID TORSO AND NECK STRETCHES
- Stand streight and hold your hands upon your head while trying to have your elbows as long back as possible. Then bend your torso and neck down to the right and then back an to the left. Do it 5-10 times so that you feel a gentle stretch each time.
- Sit on a chair with your hands behind your head. Flex your torso and neck in a bow backward do that your belly protrudes foreward. Then flex your torso and neck the other way foreward, both times so you feel a gentle stretch. Try to get your head as near your lap as possible. Do this 5-10 times without pausing.
- Sit on a chair. Twist your torso to the right as far as possibe.and then twist the other way, both times so you feel a gentle stretch in your neck and in your torso. You can make the stretch more effective by holding your hands around your knees and pushing. Do it 10-15 times without pausing.
Some easy slow stretching excercises
If you are a beginner in stretching exercises, yoga and many other specific exercises can seem a little difficult. Here are some easy exercises that everybody can manage. These are slow exercizes and you shold keep each stretch at least 30 seconds to make them effective. You should repeate each stress at leat 3 times.
SLOW ARM STRETCHES
- Stand as streight. First swing your streight arms foreward up over your head and backward as long as possible. Hold the stretch. Then swing your armes down before you until they point streight foreward, and the swing them backward stright out to each side. Again try to get as long backwards with your arms as possible and hold the stretch. Then relaxe letting your arms hang down again.
You can make this exercise more effective by standing in a door opening, taking hold of the rims by your hand and pushing towards the rims while streching.
SLOW LEG AND PELVIS STRETCHES
- Stand streight. Then bend your body foreward while pointing your fingers towards tour toes. Try to reach as long as posible downwards with your hands so that you feel it stretches well at the backside of your legs. Hold the position some time while keeping an effective stretch , then rise slowly up again.
- Sit on the floor upon a carpet. flex your legs up and put the soles of your feet together. Then swing down your feet to each side so that you feel it stretches at the inner sides of your thighs and hold the position some time while keeping the stretch. You can make the stretch more effective by gripping around your feet and pushing your legsdown with your elbows.
- Stand with split legs, with a stool before you. Bend down a little and set your hands upon the stool. Then separate gradually your legs further from each other as far as it goes so it stretches between your legs, while supporting your body with your hands at the stool. This may be somewhat difficult, but it will work by twisting movements of your feet. Then bend slowly foreward so that your torso approches a perpendicular position. Stretch well in that position. Then slowly rise and slowly take your legs together again. This execise is a little difficult and a little risky, so use some caution when doing it.
- The best way to stretch your legs out is however to lay on your back on the floor and let a friend split your legs appart so that it stretches, and then let your friend rise your legs so that they point up and stretch them to the side before moving them together again and lay them down.
SLOW TORSO AND NECK STRETCHES
- Stand streight and hold your hands upon your head while trying to have your elbows as long back as possible. Then bend your torso and neck down to the right and hold the stretch. Then bend the opposite way down to the left and hold the stretch before streightening up again.
- Sit on a chair or on a carpet on the floor. Flex your torso an neck in a bow backward do that your belly protrudes foreward. To make the stretch more effective you can hold your hands around your knees and pull with your arms. Hold the stretch some time.
Then flex your torso and neck the other way foreward. Try to get your head as near your lap as possible. Hold the stretch some while before streightening your torso up again.
- Sit on a chair or on a carpet on a floor. Twist your torso to the right as far as possibe. Hold the stretch. Then twist your torso the other way and hold the stretch. Also now you can make the stretch more effective by holding your hands around your knees and pushing.
The Principles of Classical Yoga Exercises
Yoga is a system originated in India with the purpose of stimulating both spiritual growth, mental well-being and physical health. Yoga contains many types of exercize programs, of which phsyial exercizes are one, also called hatha-yoga. In the following you can learn the basic principles of hatha yoga.
An important part of physical yoga is the breathing exercizes. This part is in many ways the most fundamental, because the basic principles of breathing is also a apart of the yoga postures, based upon stretching and upon holding the body in specific positions for some time.
Breathing exercises or pranayama
The compleate yoga-breath is a basic exercise upon which all other breathing exercises are based, and this is also the way you breath during the body postures. It is however also a independent exercize that you can do any time to refresh yourself. It begins with lungs in a totally empty state otained by conracting your stomach muscles and all of your chest muscles.
Then breath in as much as you can by letting your stomach expand. The proseed breating in by expanding the muscles in the mid of your chest. At last complete the filling of your lungs by expanding the upper part of your chest. It is not possible to separate these to faces completely, though, and they shallalso glid e over into each other in a smooth way.
Then you empty your lungs completely in a similar sequence. First you contract your stomach muscles and empty as much as possible using these muscles. While holding your stomach msucles contracted, you proceed emptying by contracying your muscles in the mid of your chest and then complete by contracting the upper part of your chest.
All other breathing exercizes are essentially variants of the complete yoga breath. Some of these are.
- You breath in and out rapidly 8-15 times, and then hold your breath some while.
- You breath in rapidly, using 4 seconds, the hold your breath 16 seconds or as long it feels comfortable, then breath out using 8 seconds.
- You can breath in whie closing one of your nostrils, hold your breath and then breath out closing the other nostrils. The your epeat it while closing your other nistril, hold the breath and then breath out while closing the first nostril.
- You can breath in and breath out through your mouth while pressing your lips towards each other so that you get an extra pressure in your lungs. You can also pressing your lips togeather while breathing in so that you get an under-prssure in your lungs.
Body postures or asanas
A yoga psoture begins with your body in a relaxed position, either laying flat down or sitting right. You empty your lungs before the posture as in a complete yoga breath. - Then you slowly swing your whole body or parts of your body into a stretched position. While doing this your breath in as in the complete yoga breath.
- Then you hold theposition for a short or longer time. If you hold it long, you breath relaxed with the compete yoga breath method, but not in such a complete way that the breath makes you exhausted.
- The you swing back from the stretched state to the original position while breating out like in the complete yoga breath.
Most postures are variant of these basic principles, of which some are:
- You lay on your back. Then swing your arms up and behind your shoulders, stretching all of your body from top to toes. Then lift and swing your body foreward and stretch towards your toes. After holding the position some while swing back to a laying position.
- You lay on our stomach, with a cloth under your lower stomach to protect your genitals. Then lift and swing your uppe body up as long as possible. Push with your hands towards the floor to help the lifing and to get an effective stretch. Then swing back.
- Sit on the floor with your legs flexed and your kbees together near your stomach. Then twist your torso to one side, while pushing against your legs with your arms to help the twisting and get an effective stretch. Then, after holding tha position a while, swing your torso back and twist to the other side in the same manner.
- Lay on the floor. Swing your legs up so your feet come over your head. Then lift your torso up from the floor and streight out your body as much as you feel comfortable, so that your body rests upon your shoulders. Help the lifting and holding the position with your arms. After haveing been in that upright position some while, desend your torso and legs again.
How to learn or start practicing yoga
You can find exact desriptions of yoga exercises in books and in web-sites or you can go to cources. You will probably find that the exercises are difficult to do as described in the beginning. It is however possible to do them aproximately in the beginning and gradually learn to perform them perfectly.
But you can also compose your own exercises that fit your personal condition and need. To be yoga exercices they must be composed according to the principles outlined above. Weather you learn standard exercises or compose your own, you should however choose a set of exercises that will stretch ortwist all your body parts whan all of them have been done in a session.
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