Stretching is an important component to any exercise and we often focus on how far we can reach. However, just as important when stretching is remembering to breathe.
Breathing is a natural function but what is the quality of your breathing? Are you remembering to take deep long breaths that fill your lungs that oxygenate your blood cells? Typically we take short shallow breaths. However, when stretching you want to change your breathing pattern.
Fitness author Joe Kita in his blog gives some stretching advice.
“Consciously breathe into that muscle tissue and see if you’re able to elongate it a bit more. You’ll have to stretch more slowly in order to do this and take multiple breaths in each pose, but that’s all good.”
“I stretch the outside of the muscles and tendons with the pose itself, while at the same time stretching them from the inside with the breath. “
Breathing into the muscle means a deep, deliberate inhalation filling the lungs. Yoga practitioners state that taking deep breaths like this for just an hour is more air than you would normally inhale during a day. If you’re able to get in the habit of deep breathing throughout the entire day Kita writes that the constant expanding and contracting by your body is a nonstop flexibility workout – something we can always improve.
Another helpful tip to improve flexibility is staying hydrated. Kita spoke to stretching expert Ann Frederick who gives an example of the negative effect of dehydration on the muscles.
“The fascia layer is supposed to glide across the muscular layer, but when the fascia tissue is dehydrated it sort of sticks. At times, you can even feel a crunchiness under your fingers and hear a cracking or popping sound.”
Frederick’s simple advice is to drink just plain water and says it’s one of the biggest factor in improving flexibility.
So instead of reaching for that extra cup of coffee or sugary energy drink, instead get reenergized with several deep breathes and a glass of water.