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How Do I Stretch Safely & Correctly?

Stretching is an essential part of maintaining flexibility, preventing injury, and enhancing physical performance. To stretch safely and correctly, follow these guidelines:

1. Warm Up: Especially if your living environment is cold or you have just woken from sleep, warm up your body with light aerobic exercises (e.g., jogging in place or jumping jacks) for about 5-10 minutes before stretching. You can also gently shake or sway from side to side - any slow movement works well. Warm muscles are more pliable and less prone to injury.

2. Breathe: Maintain slow and relaxed breathing throughout your stretching routine. Inhale / exhale, softly and slowly through your nose. If you feel tense, you may choose to exhale through the mouth.

3. Start Gently: Begin with gentle, static stretches that target the major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for about 15-30 seconds without bouncing.

4. Pain vs. Discomfort: Stretch to the point of mild discomfort, not pain. You should feel tension in the muscle, but it should never be painful. Learn to distinguish between the two. If you experience pain, stop immediately.

5. Use Proper Form: Pay attention to your posture and form. Maintain good alignment during stretches to avoid injury.

6. Gradual Progression: Progressively increase the intensity of your stretches over time. Don't force yourself into deep stretches too quickly.

7. Specificity: Choose stretches that are appropriate for your activity or fitness goals. For example, dynamic stretches are great for warming up before exercise, while static stretches are ideal for cooling down or improving flexibility.

8. Balance: Stretch both sides of your body equally to maintain balance and prevent overuse injuries.

9. Regularity: Consistency is key. Stretch regularly, ideally on a daily basis or at least several times a week, to see improvements in flexibility.

10. Cool Down: After your workout or stretching routine, perform light, static stretches to help muscles relax and reduce the risk of soreness.

11. Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is important for overall muscle function, so be sure to drink enough water.

12. Avoid Overstretching: Never push your body past its natural range of motion. Overstretching can lead to injury.

13. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's feedback. If you feel discomfort, tension, or pain during a stretch, adjust or stop the stretch as needed.

14. Incorporate Variety: Include a variety of stretching techniques, such as static, dynamic, and PNF* stretching, in your routine to target different muscle groups.

15. Seek Guidance: If you're new to stretching or have specific concerns, consider consulting with a skilled and experienced yoga / Pilates teacher for guidance and personalised advice.

Remember that everyone's flexibility is different, so be patient with your progress.

Consistent and safe stretching practices can contribute to better flexibility, reduced risk of injury, and overall well-being.

*Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation

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