Relaxing is the easiest way to get further with your stretches and flexibility.
How so? Isn’t stretching supposed to be painful?
That’s the interesting part. When you tense up it IS painful. When you let go and relax it isn’t so much.
Note how Pawel and Sakia below are both adopting a relaxed stance below.
Try this. Go into a stretch of your choice: touch your toes, hold a leg behind you, whatever. Then as you start the stretch, BREATHE.
Breathing is proven to be an easy way to get your body to relax.
Breathe long, slow, deep breaths. In for four seconds. Out for four. Breathe as deep as you can, then try to breathe a bit more.
Emphasise the out breath and use this time to move deeper into your stretch. Think of expelling all the stiffness and inhaling new flexibility.
Facial expression also helps. Your body tends to follow what the rest of it does, so relax your face as much as you can. Look, Pavel is even smiling!
The more you breathe and get used to it, the more you are able to focus on the muscles and willingly get them to relax. There are times when this is particularly useful, such as the stretch below:
For any stretch where you are folded over breathing becomes harder, so some level of thought into relaxing the muscles is essential.
Over the next week, monitor yourself and pay attention to when you feel really relaxed. Maybe you’re having a massage, a hot shower, a sauna.
Pay attention to how your body feels and go back to this memory each time you stretch. This becomes your ‘anchor’ and before you know it, your body relaxes without effort and then the flexibility starts to flow.