Doing the splits, sitting in a pigeon’s pose, bending your legs above your head… these are the stereotypical things we assume when we think about flexibility. But being flexible isn’t about bending like a Russian gymnast – flexibility can help prevent injury, and maintain mobility and function. And of course, flexibility doesn’t have to be all physical either.
In fact, flexibility goes beyond the physical, because the body and mind are intertwined in so many ways. Often times stress and other intense emotions can be stored in our muscles. Becoming more flexible means you can bend both your muscles and your perception, to relax, unwind, and say goodbye to stress.
As the weather starts getting cooler and you start spending less time outside, try a couple of these simple tips (other than yoga, which you can learn about in our other article) to flex your mind and body.
1. Notice what’s around you and breathe
There are lots of distractions and thoughts whizzing about our everyday lives. These can distract you from what you’re doing and allow you to sink into a bad physical posture, or allow negative thoughts to circle in your mind.
Making a note of what’s around you can help narrow the focus down to what you can see, hear, and feel. Take a moment to notice and acknowledge your surroundings – then bring your attention to your own body. What is your posture like right now? Poor posture can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing.
Finally, draw in the attention to your breath and how it moves through your body. By the time you’re focusing on your breathe you’re able to reset your mental and physical stance.
2. Change up your environment or routine
There’s a tendency for us to fall into routine because it’s certain, effective, and easy. Whether it’s how you get to work in the morning or where you like to spend your evenings, some part of your day or week is on repeat.
Changing up a place or a route can change your perspective on the activity you’re doing. It gives new ideas or insight, and it takes your body out of autopilot mode. A few examples you could try:
- Set out on a different route to or from work, maybe stop by a bookshop or café on the way
- Take a look at what events are on and change up your evening plans
- Find a new park where you can read.
You can also ask your friends or new acquaintances to share what they like to do. Try to incorporate some of that into your week so that you actively venture into new territory.
3. Apply pressure to your muscles with a foam roller
We store energy from stress in our tissues, mainly in muscles and the connected tissue called fascia. When accumulated, this leads to pain and reduced health. Not all of us can afford to have massages all of the time, so if you want to dig into your knots and tend to your muscles, try an inexpensive foam roller!
Foam rolling applies pressure to your muscles and connective tissue, which helps them relax. With repeated use, you can relieve yourself of areas that are storing a lot of stress, this is often in our shoulders and hips. Targeting the glutes and hip flexors can help relieve tension build-up.
Try foam rolling before and after your stretches to help reduce muscle soreness and speed-up muscle recovery.
4. Try dynamic stretching before a workout
There’s two main types of stretching: static and dynamic. You’d probably be familiar with static stretching, when you stand, sit or lie still and hold a position for a period of time. Dynamic stretching is gently moving joints through the full range of motion, such as trunk twists or leg swings against a wall.
The benefit of dynamic stretching is that it increases blood flow to the muscles and fascia. Ideal before a workout, you can perform these movements with control. Save the static stretching for post-workout for the ultimate flexibility strategy.
5. Turn up the music
A good tune can take us places – it could be a high energy disco track or some new age ambient stuff that ignites your imagination. Whatever you choose, music can make you move in new ways. Contemporary music can make us stretch and bend, whilst pop music can make us jump high over and over again.
Not to mention it stretches and lifts up your spirit, improving your mood and helping you unwind.
Find your favourite way to flex
Are you looking to release the tension in your mind and body? At Virgin Active, we’re here to support you with fitness and wellbeing solutions that work for you.
Book a free tour at your nearest Virgin Active club to learn more.