When it comes to making sustainable New Year's resolutions there is one thing that should definitely be on your list for 2022 - as it's a winner for your physical and mental health.
If stretching isn't part of your daily life, it should be, because there are so many more benefits to it than what you get from a simple and often too quick pre or post workout session.
Sally Kellett, founder of Mirosuna - an online and in-person mindfulness meditation studio that's just launched Virtual Mindful Stretch Classes, says the principles of mindful stretching are the same as any other mindfulness practice.
"You must aim to bring your full attention to the present moment to experience the here and now - from having awareness to your movement, focusing on your breath or the way your body feels as it moves," she explains.
It's a known fact that when we don't move our bodies, we don’t feel good, and neither do our minds - so taking a moment to let go of the day’s distractions and engaging in gentle movement can help boost energy, focus and resilience, while releasing tension, stiffness, and heavy emotions.
"When we stretch deeply, we release emotional tension that's stored within our physical body, which if not addressed can lead to aches and pains," Sally says.
"With thoughtfully curated stretch movements, you can start to let go of negative blockages and regain flow in your mind, body and spirit.
"When you move the body, adjust and hold postures, you also shift the activity of your autonomic nervous system which influences reactions to your heart rate, blood pressure, and fight-or-flight response. This means that mindful movement can give you the access to shift emotions and moods from the outside-in."
Here Sally shares 5 benefits of a multi-sensory meditative deep stretching experience:
We all carry stress in our bodies, and chronic stress can produce a number of negative responses and imbalances, including anxiety, fatigue and tension. Taking a moment each day to stretch has been shown to reduce mental tension as it releases natural endorphins - and when combined with mindful breathing techniques, may also help to decrease anxiety and depression.
Instead of reaching for your phone in the morning, try spending 10 minutes stretching mindfully. When conducted properly with deep breathing techniques, it can give you the burst of energy you need to start your day. Additionally, if you're hit with a 3pm brain fog or sluggishness - take a quick “stretch break” to boost your energy levels again.
Stretching can be a great tool to identify imbalances in flexibility or areas of extra tightness in the body, which then gives you the opportunity to rectify those problem areas before they lead to injury.
Ever wonder why certain experiences can make you feel calm, happy or joyful? One of the key reasons for this is that positive experiences can actually create a chemical reaction in your brain. There are four main hormones that are primarily responsible for creating those feel-good sensations: endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. With mindful stretching, you can affect your brain as well as your muscle system as these hormones are delivered throughout your body to help regulate metabolism, insulin, emotions and mood.
Excessive muscular tension can increase discomfort throughout the body, however studies have shown that regularly stretching can help to decrease stiffness, reduce pain levels (especially in individuals with chronic neck or low-back pain), and may even reduce the frequency and severity of muscle cramps.
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