A few years ago I took a 60 minute stretch class for the first time at Ballet Bodies in LA and it was one of the most blissful fitness experiences of my life. Given that all of the instructors in the studio are literal ballerinas, there’s really no place more appropriate to offer something like that. Still, classes dedicated completely to stretching out your exhausted muscles should be the norm. Five-second hamstring stretches in-between workouts doesn’t really do it.
Stretching has a way of turning people off. We do it because we know that we should, but we don’t always dedicate the time to really see the benefits. Setting aside a dedicated amount of time for a full stretch routine can be the perfect way to start your day or wind down before bed.
Why you should be stretching every single day (even if you’re “not flexible”):
- Increases flexibility: You don’t need to be flexible to stretch. You stretch to become flexible. It also improves joint health, which older you will appreciate.
- Relieves stress: Whenever you spend time getting out of your head and into your body it helps to quiet all of the racing thoughts in your mind. I suggest a dimly lit room, wave sounds on your Google Home (not an ad, just a lifestyle) and a blackout sleep mask. Heaven.
- Increases circulation: More blood flow to your muscles enables your body to spread nutrients and detox itself. It also speeds up recovery time.
- Improves posture: Loosening your muscles helps them lengthen so that you stand taller. Bad posture also equals back pain, which nobody wants.
- Prevents injury: Warm muscles don’t injure as easily as cool muscles. We’ve all heard the rubber band analogy. You want them to stretch not snap.
How to stretch:
- Breathe: When we’re uncomfortable we tend to hold our breath. Inhaling and exhaling lets you relax into the stretches so that you get the most out of it.
- Listen to your body: Stretching isn’t always comfortable, but it should never hurt.
- Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds: Or for an entire episode of Queer Eye. Whichever.
- Be consistent: Stretching every day is ideal, as long as you’re not pushing your body beyond its limitations.
While all of these things can be done at home, studios that offer stretch classes not only introduce you to more stretches but can also make sure you’re doing them with the proper form and that you’re challenging yourself. It may be the one thing you never knew you needed.