Here at Studio Poise we strive to bring you great workouts as well as healthy living advice. We want to know, do you stretch? No? Read on and see whether Danielle can change your mind!
I don't think I could consider myself a professional in this field if I didn't hold myself responsible for the mind and body connection that happens when we stretch our bodies. Truth be told, all of the classes offered at Studio Poise I consider to be "mind/body" - because we are conditioning and nourishing both, whether we realize it or not. More specifically, you will hear a lot during your Poise method, flow, and barre classes the terms 'inhale' and 'exhale'. Most of what I have to say on this topic is so extensive, I could probably write a book, so I will do my best to keep this concept very 'stretch' specific. Since everything we do is considered 'mind/body', it only makes sense that the stretches and the connection of breath throughout classes play a major role in the results we want to you to see, feel, and enjoy within your body. When you skip the stretch, you are, in my opinion, washing away most of the work you have done up until that point! The stretch is the dessert, it's what your body truly craves at the end of a solid thigh burn session at the barre and other intense classes where there is a lot of small and large muscle contraction. Stretching also promotes proper alignment (AKA "poise"), maximizes circulation and nerve innervation, and optimizes the benefits of your entire workout.
So, now that I may have intrigued you enough to stay on your matte for a few extra minutes, let's get into the inhale and exhale - and the WHY.
Why do I need to breathe when stretching?
Well, you should ALWAYS be breathing. But, in this case, the major reasons are to increase the stretch, circulation, and relaxation.
How do I properly breathe while stretching?
Your breath should always be deep inhales that you can feel filling your lungs, and on your exhale, a complete emptying of the air in your entire body (well, as much as you can). It's important first and foremost to make sure you are breathing properly and not just blowing air out of your mouth like you're trying to whistle. It's weird at first, but once you really feel the difference, you won't be able to imagine how you did any physical activity without it! In terms of your stretch, its a big inhale through the nose on the lengthening or the actual holding of the position. On your exhale, feel your body get a little deeper in the stretch, without too much force. By breathing and holding your stretches, you are training your muscles to lengthen more each time. Additionally, when you breathe properly, your heart pumps oxygenated blood to your muscles. After delivering the oxygen and nutrients, your blood removes lactic acid and other waste products from your muscles.
What if I don't know what I am supposed to be stretching?
This isn't uncommon. You will find that many times your instructress will notify you of what muscle group you are stretching either before or during the stretch. If not, don't hesitate to ask! It is very important that you know this information so you can be sure you're stretching the proper area of your body, and not over-stretching or unknowingly injuring another muscle group.
How do I 'relax' during the stretch?
Again, you will find the relaxation in your breath. When you sincerely listen and find the connection of breath to the movement of your body, especially during stretch, your mind and your body will ultimately meet in a very 'relaxed' state. More importantly, meeting this relaxation helps release the contraction of your muscles. Trying to stretch a contracted muscle can easily lead to injury.
What classes do you recommend for optimal stretching?
Any flow classes, our barre classes, Poise Stretch & Tone, and most of the Poise Method classes (in that order) will offer the most opportunity for good stretching!
Next time you are trying to rush your body out of a stretch, keep this all in mind! Take care of your body and it will take care of you! <3