Monday, April 23, 2012

The Importance of Stretching

Stretching has always been one of those things that are often neglected in the exercise regimen. By the time you finish your workout, you probably are sweaty and tired, and just want to hop into the shower and go home. So maybe, you just do some half-hearted stretch for 1-2 minutes, or you figure you could stretch in the shower, or maybe at home. None of which is a good option.

Stretching prevents you from being super sore the next day. It also keeps your muscles strong and flexible. By not stretching after a workout, you are causing your muscles and joints to become tight and inelastic after time. Muscles should be strong and elastic to keep you in your optimal shape. By stretching, you are bringing oxygenated blood into your muscles which helps flush out toxins and remove lactic acid that is built up after a workout.

During pregnancy, stretching helps keep the muscles and joints strong and flexible for a safe labor and can relieve those pesky common discomforts in pregnancy such as low back pain, tight shoulders, neck pain, and wrist pain.
Other benefits of stretching include relaxation. If you combine deep breathing with your stretching during pregnancy, you will be helping bring more oxygen to your baby to help him grow.
The muscle groups we will target and be stretched at least 3-5 times a week is:
   Hip flexors and illiopsoas
   Lower back
   Back of the neck and upper back

Hip Flexors/Illiosoas:
Now often people have tight hips (people susceptible to that are those who spend at least 6 hrs. a day seated) The hip flexor muscles help lift your knees and bend at the waist. By keep those muscles limber, it will help with childbirth.
1. Kneel with one knee on the floor and the other foot in front with the knee bent(if you feel unsteady, or in the later stages of your pregnancy, please do this stretch close to a wall for support)
2. Push your hips forwards and keep the back upright
3. Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.
4. Repeat both sides for 2-3 times.

Optional: you can move your bent front knee slightly forward and back to lubricate the joints and increase mobility.

Quad Stretch:
1. Stand upright on your left leg, grasp your right foot around the ankle and slowly move the heel towards your buttocks.
2. Hold the stretched position for about 10-30 seconds; during the hold, contract your buttocks muscles, drawing them downwards to increase the stretch on the quadriceps muscles.
3. To minimize the risk of injury, try not to allow your back to arch during the exercise, and keep your right knee pointing directly downwards throughout the stretch. This will ensure that the bones and muscles of the leg are correctly aligned.
4. Repeat the stretch on the other leg.
5. Repeat both sides for 2-3 times.

Chest Stretch:
1. Stand at end of wall or in doorway facing perpendicular to wall. Place inside of bent arm on surface of wall.
2. Position bent elbow shoulder height.
3. Turn body away from positioned arm. Hold stretch.
4. Repeat with opposite arm.
5. Repeat both sides for 2-3 times.

Note: Upper chest becomes more stretched with elbow lower. Lower chest and pectoralis minor become more stretched with elbows higher.

Lower Back(also stretches out the inner thighs):
1. Sit on the floor with your back against the couch or wall.
2. Bend knees and put your feet together sole to sole.
3. Slowly, see how close to the floor you can get your knees to the point of slight tension
4. Hold for 5-10 seconds. For increased stretch, bend at hips(if your belly is too big, stay as you are)
5. Repeat 2-3 times.


1. Bend one arm over head and down back
2. Bend other arm around and up back.
3. Grasp finger tips and hold for 10 seconds(if you fingers can’t reach, you can hold onto the back of your shirt or use a small towel to help)
4. Reverse arm positions and hold for 10 seconds.
5. Keep back straight during this exercise.
6. Repeat 2-3 times.

Back of Neck/Upper Back

1. Sit on the floor or in a supportive chair
2. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, then gently tilt your head to one side and let it slowly drop toward your shoulder.
3. Don't raise your shoulder to meet your head, and don't force your head down.
4. Hold for three to six seconds, then switch sides.
5. Repeat 3-4 times.

Before I go, I also wanted to recommend a dvd that I have been using. Its Tara Lee’s Pregnancy Health Yoga. The cd has a great material for pregnancy yoga as well as address discomforts during pregnancy help prepare you for the birth of your baby. I bought the complete pack that includes post-natal yoga, and yoga for you and your baby. The link is:

Next week I will be doing a short article on breathing and then in the month of May it will be dedicated to nutrition for you and your baby. Included will be ways to eat healthier without sacrificing on the all sweets and biscuits!


Tara Lee Pregnancy Yoga dvd

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