Relaxing and Letting Go

One of the most important benefits of stretching is its ability to promote relaxation not only of your body but also of your mind and spirit. The slow, methodical movements in a good flexibility program provide gentle movements as you position your body for the next stretch, followed by periods of quiet stillness as you hold the stretch. Concentrated focus on the muscles you're stretching helps block out other stress-inducing thoughts (you know, those thoughts of your schedule, your finances, your kids, and so on). In this way, stretching can not only lengthen your muscles but also expand your mental horizon.

When you stretch, keep the following in mind:

^ You should feel slight tension in the muscle that you intend to stretch. This tension should definitely not cross the line into pain or discomfort.

^ You should feel a stretch only in the intended muscle, never in a joint. Pain in your joints signals irritation in the joint, so you definitely want to let up if that happens.

^ Your body should be in a position that's relaxed and totally tension free. If your body feels awkward or tense, modify the stretch, or use a prop such as a strap or block (covered earlier in this chapter) so you can focus on the intended muscle.

^ Stretching should be a positive experience, not a form of self-torture.

Throughout this book I give you several different stretches for each muscle group. If one doesn't seem to fit your body, try one that feels more comfortable.

Chapter 3

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