Stretch Your Stress Away—With Other Health Benefits, Too!
We all know that stress has a negative impact on our bodies, but sometimes we aren’t sure how to release that stress. Exercise can help decrease stress, but when we’re crunched for time, that takes a backseat. Something as easy as spending a few minutes doing simple, relaxing stretches before bed can be a great way to release tension and give your body a little extra love for all that it does throughout the day. Some people may even find that taking time to stretch and breathe before bed each night can be more relaxing than a glass of wine (or two)! Read on to learn why you should consider stretching and how you can start your routine.
What are the health benefits of stretching?
Stretching has numerous health benefits. It can improve energy levels, promote blood circulation, improve posture, and possibly even decrease lower back pain. For active adults, regular stretching increases athletic performance, reduces muscle tension, and decreases risk of injury. Something so simple can add so much to your health—including helping you fall asleep. By relieving muscle tension, stretching allows your muscles to let go of where you’re carrying stress, helping you to relax and sleep better. Stretching as part of yoga may also improve quality of sleep by reducing mental stimulation, which is common in people who struggle with insomnia.
One of the most impactful benefits of stretching is increased flexibility. In yoga practice, it is believed that the more physically flexible you are, the more likely you are to also be flexible in your mind. When you’re constantly under stress, it can be difficult to maintain an optimistic outlook on life. Because stretching reduces the amount of stress you’re carrying in your body, it can relieve some of the instinct to be negative and “stretch” your mind toward a more optimistic outlook.
How do I get started?
Practicing deep breathing is a great way to begin your stretching sessions. To do this, start in a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale deeply through your nose, and fill your belly with air. Exhale through your mouth. Continue this deep breathing throughout your stretching.
You can stretch by setting up a yoga mat and putting on calming music, or you can choose to multitask and stretch while watching TV. Choose whatever routine and stretches work for you! Some good before-bed stretches are a standing forward fold, a sitting forward fold, and a lunge. You can find more ideas of stretches on the Shape website.