The benefits of being bendy
By Rosa Anderson - Jones
“I can’t come to barre classes, I am so inflexible.”
Is this you? Well we have a few answers for you.
- We’re not expecting you to slide on into the splits on day one.
- That is why our classes exist — we’re here to help you to mobilise your body.
The benefits of flexible and mobile extend to so many facets of life. But how do we get there? We need joint mobility, and muscular flexibility.
When you stretch a muscle, you elongate the muscle fibres and allow your body to move into a greater range of motion. The more flexible you are, the more you can do with your body and (when combined with strength and stability) the healthier it will be.
Then there are the psychological perks, such as stress-reduction. Who has been to Stretch and Lengthen with Anastasia? Honestly get along — you’ll feel drunk-in-love after your session.
Need more inspiration to limber up? Here are a handful of benefits that come with increasing your flexibility.
You will stand taller, and with more confidence
Good flexibility improves our general posture and ergonomics as our bodies, particularly those that are slumped over a desk all day, have a tendency to allow certain muscles to tighten up. Hands up if you experience tightness in your hip flexors, hamstrings and shoulders?
Those tense muscles take their toll on the spine’s alignment. As Anastasia stresses in class, ‘a healthy spine is a healthy life.' Stretching and increasing flexibility helps to correct poor spinal alignment by balancing the tension placed across the joint by the muscles that cross it. A stiff muscle in one part of your body may lead to overexertion and pulling on another part, changing the way you hold your body in its relaxed state and placing strain on those joints.
Similarly, gaining flexibility in the large muscles in your lower body, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, can help reduce stress on your lower back and reduce chronic back pain. After all, all of our muscles and joints are interconnected and work together to produce movement.
You’ll get more out of your workout
This is for the people who would rather spend their time sweating and panting!
Improved flexibility helps your joints to move through their full range of motion and enables your muscles to work at their peak performance. By broadening your range of movement, you are better able to utilise your muscular strength as well as gravity and momentum, to help you excel at your favourite physical endeavour. With a flexible body, you retain greater motor control and have the ability to respond to your environment more effectively.
Similarly, being flexible gives allows you to better perform movements in everyday life — such as bending down to pick up a box, lifting your wee one or sweeping the floor. If you're tight and have a limited range of motion, all of these activities could potentially result in injury, especially if done quickly or are unexpectedly.
Your circulation will improve
Tension in your muscles affects the circulation of nutrients and oxygen to your organs. When your muscles are flexible, they relax and improve your flow. Stretching helps blood travel swiftly to your muscles and joints, and good circulation can help ward off nasty illnesses, from kidney disease to diabetes and can even help reduce the risk of a stroke of heart attack.
It gives you time to tune in, and tune up!
Stretching gives you an opportunity to continue to move and work with your body at a slower pace, so you can better tune in to what's really going on. Don't underestimate the importance of the mind to body connection to your overall health. Greater body awareness also results in a more effective workout, as you're more aware of what muscles should be triggering, and how to use and activate those muscles throughout a movement.
The key with stretching is to listen to your body, move slowly, and breathe. If you’re having to hold your breathe and grimace when you’re stretching, you’re not doing it right. A quick overextended stretch is more likely to result in injury. A gentle longer stretch after is likely to enhance your flexibility in a healthy and gradual way.
Flexible muscles hold less tension, so more bendy people tend to feel less stress. Health professionals have also noticed a correlation between stretching and stress relief — for one, the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered with stress, causing our bodies to tense up. Stretching interrupts this defensive response, helping us feel more relaxed and elated.
Need some guidance?
Barre Base offers Stretch and Lengthen on a Monday at 7pm, and in all barre classes, we take time to stretch and mobilise between work.
We’re soon to be adding a Self Care Sunday session (3.30-5pm) which is a Yoga Barre class with a component of stretch and self-massage to finish your session. Coming to you in April!
Don’t be that person that thinks stretching is a waste of time. Get along and feel the difference of living in a mobile body!