How Does Stretching Work?

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A personal trainer friend of mine posted a blog entry the other day that I just love–“Does Stretching Really Work?”

Luci is writing about the mechanisms and benefits of stretching before and/or after working out, and I think of it as an action that flows throughout the practice of postural yoga, but the three points she makes certainly apply to whatever stretching you do, whether it’s before a run or during a yoga class. She was writing in response to a piece in the Wall Street Journal that interviewed a professor of sports medicine at the University of Virginia, Dr. Jay Hertel. Dr. Hertel explained that stretching maximizes a joint’s range of motion. “The greater range of motion you have, the more likely you’ll be able to generate more force, which may make you run faster or jump higher,” he explained.

Luci makes three important points:

  • Greater range of motion means your joints can move more easily and painlessly.
  • Tight muscles create imbalances throughout all the muscles and joints they connect to, which can cause pain.
  • Good flexibility means less likelihood of injury in daily life.

I think the relevance to yoga practice is a point she makes near the end–“Not to mention, if you have strength through your full range of motion, you’ll be able to contract your muscles from the stretched position and pull yourself back up to standing with little to no consequences. And if you have balance on top of all that, you’re golden.”

Exactly. The work we do in postural yoga classes is seldom just stretching. Most of the movements combine elements of stretching and strength-building and/or balance at the same time, so we’re building exactly the injury resistance Luci is talking about–having strength through the full range of motion, and having good balance.

I haven’t been able to really articulate this connection before, and I’m really thrilled that Luci explained it all for me!

 

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