The Single Most Important Stretch

Guys are notoriously bad at taking the time to stretch. They are more interested in spending their time in the gym lifting weights. I don’t have to really go into detail about the benefits of stretching, so instead I thought I’d offer one whole body stretch. If you’ve never done yoga, Downward Dog may be new to you, but it’s a great stretch if your muscles are feeling tight and sore.

Yoga in general is a great way to build flexibility and core strength, but it is also a great way to learn how to breathe effectively and concentrate on the simple action of breathing. Learning to breathe will help you with stress and also during exercises like weight training, cardio and walking.

Many people tend to instinctively hold their breath while doing sets of weight training, instead of inhaling and exhaling through the movements, which often means that they can lift less weight and perform less reps.

DOWNWARD DOG:

Downward Dog begins by kneeling with the hands and knees on the floor. Hands should be under the shoulders, fingers spread wide, knees under the hips (about seven inches apart), spine straight and relaxed From this position, exhale and push your hips up towards the ceiling, so that the body forms an inverted V-shape. Legs should be straight. Arms are straight, elbows engaged, shoulders wide and relaxed. Your heels should be moving towards the floor. Hands and feet remain hip-width apart.

Note: If the hamstrings are very strong or tight, the knees should be bent to allow the spine to lengthen fully.

Avoid pressure on the wrists by pressing into the fingers and palms, directing the push upward into the hips. The head should drop naturally. The heart moves toward the back wall. Your hips move up and back.  You are relying on the breath while holding this posture; take deep, steady inhales and exhales to create a flow of energy through the body.

Concentrate on maintaining a slow, rhythmic, breath. As you exhale, release onto your hands and knees and rests. Repeat several times, until you begin to feel a change in your body (i.e. tight calves or shoulders.)

The Downward Dog stretches the shoulders, legs, and spine; ?it provides an overall body stretch; it removes fatigue and rejuvenates the body; and it increases blood flow to the sinuses.

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image courtesy of lululemon athletica on flickr

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