In massage therapy school, one of the things we are taught is how to give our clients the appropriate home care. Stretches to be done after the treatment that will help decrease the tension in painful or tight muscles. We spent two years learning stretches for almost every large muscle group in the body and most of these stretches I have given to my clients at one point in time or another. Until I was introduced to yoga. Not only do most yoga poses provide an excellent stretch but also can increase relaxation and a sense of wellbeing as well. After nine years of practising massage therapy, I only give out yoga poses as home care. Here are some of the yoga pose I personally find most effective.
This pose is perfect for relaxation as well as stretching out the hips and back. Sitting on your knees, fold your body forward until your forehead touches the ground. The arms can be stretched out in front of you or by your sides, whatever is most comfortable for you. Take deep breaths and try to clear you mind of all the worries of the day. Feel the hips and back opening as you breathe.
The back is one of the hardest areas to stretch and the cat pose is what I give to clients that are experiencing back pain. This pose can help with flexibility of the spine, all of the little muscles in between each vertebrae and stretches the abs well. Kneeling on all fours with hands and knees shoulder/ hip width apart bring your head and bum up and arch your back.
The cow pose is the opposite of cat pose and can both be used as a combination stretch. You are in the same position as the cat pose, on all fours but instead of bringing the head and bum up, you will be curling them under. This also helps with flexibility of the spine and is a great stretch for the muscles of the back.
Half Moon Pose
Half moon pose is a wonderful pose for opening up the ribs and stretching the sides of the body. Stand with your feet close together with your arms shoulder width apart towards the sky. Bend first to one side, holding the pose for 30 seconds or more, move back to centre and then bend to the other side. Try and make sure your hips stay centred as much as possible.
This stretch is particularly good for athletes with groin injuries, because the focus is on the muscles that line the inner thighs. Sit on the ground almost as if you are in a crossed leg position but with the soles of your feet touching. Hold onto your heels with your hands as you slowly lower yourself in a forward bend. This stretch can be quite intense so only go as far as you feel comfortable without pain.
If you are having problems visualizing these yoga poses, please click on the link. To get the best results from any stretch that you do, try to heat the muscles before hand. Either with a hot shower, a soak in the tub or a heating pad. A muscle that is heated is more pliable and will stretch better. Also try to stretch several times a day and for 30 seconds or longer if you can. If there is pain, stop the stretch immediately. Never push yourself to the point of possible injury. If you are interested in more yoga stretches, check out your local yoga studio, and sign up for classes!