Stretching & Stress
When you see a cat doing an outrageous stretch
that makes you chuckle, you may not realize these
stretches are important for its health. Likewise,
regularly stretching your own muscles improves
flexibility; prevents muscle stiffness, strain
and soreness; and leaves you feeling refreshed.
Because stretching improves blood flow throughout
your body, it's important for muscular health,
and it's the cheapest way to relieve stress.
Taking just 15 minutes out of your day to
stretch can be incredibly therapeutic -- both
for your muscles and your mental well-being.
If you sit in front of a computer most of the
day, you not only face the mental stresses of your
day, you can build up extreme tension in your
back, neck and shoulder muscles. It's important
to take a few minutes every couple of hours to
stretch -- you'll feel more productive and alert,
and you'll feel less stress.
Here's a simple stretch you can do in your
office to relieve tension and stress. Stand with
your feet together and your arms at your side.
Slowly exhale, and bend your body at the waist
allowing your head and arms to hang loosely toward
the ground (your upper body should be completely
relaxed, as though your arms, neck, shoulders and
torso have "gone limp"). Stay in that position
until you have completely exhaled the air from
your lungs. As you inhale, slowly stack one
vertebra on top of another to stand up straight.
When you get to your shoulder area, gently roll
your shoulders back and very slowly straighten
your neck until your head is upright. Then slowly
exhale through your mouth. Not only does this
simple stretch refresh all parts of your body,
it encourages proper posture and opens your
chest cavity for optimal breathing.
It's important to listen to your body as you
stretch. If a particular motion is painful, make
the necessary modifications so you don't over-exert
yourself. Keep at it, because the more you stretch,
the easier it gets, and the more flexible you'll
become. (Always consult your doctor before beginning
any exercise program.)