Have you ever noticed how young children stretch when they are very tired or upon awakening. It is a natural instinct for us humans to stretch. It is unfortunate that as we get older, we get too busy, too forgetful or too self-conscious to stretch our body the way it needs. There are multiple benefits that we can reap from stretching regularly.
What is it in humans that makes us feel like stretching, and why do people stretch?
To wake up
We stretch in the morning to wake up. Over the course of the night our muscles are not being used, so they can contract. Stretching first thing helps warm up our muscles and gets them ready to take on the day. Stretching also gets your blood moving and signals to your brain that you are wide awake and ready to start your morning.
We stretch when we are sore
Muscle movements are for the most part voluntary actions. Your brain sends signals to your muscles to move when you want them to, and in return the muscles give your brain information about their placement on your body and about any sensory input, such as pain or pleasure. When you stretch, your sore muscles send pleasure messages up through your central nervous system to your brain, so even though you may feel a bit a pain, you also feel pleasure with the stretch. That is the reason we have a natural impulse to stretch when we are feeling sore. Stretching also helps make the muscle more elastic, and regular stretching can help you avoid muscle strain. This is why it is so important to stretch before a workout. The more warm and flexible your muscles are, the less chance that they will be torn or injured during weight training.
We stretch when we are tired
Believe it or not, there is a term for stretching and yawning at the same time. It is called pandiculation. It is instinctual behavior in most mammals, including humans. Pandiculating raises the blood pressure and increases the heart rate and is often a good cure for a tired body or a weary mind. It usually results in a person feeling more relaxed and more energized. Pandiculating is a somewhat lost art in human beings, but those who do it regularly swear this technique really works. So the next time you are feeling the four o’clock slump, instead of pouring another cup of coffee, try pandiculating first.
Stretching is one of the best things you can do for your body. It should be the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you should do before bed.
If you imagine yourself stretching every muscle starting from your toes and working all the way up to your eyebrows twice a day, you will find yourself more alert, more relaxed and more comfortable throughout the day.
What are we waiting for?
Let’s get up now and stretch!