Stretching for Flexibility
By George Mera
Flexibility is associated with life. A new-born baby is supple, flexible and natural. Stiffness is associated with death. A corpse is rigid, inflexible and unbending. Stretching is the most natural activity performed by most animals, including humans. The fibrous muscles constantly need to contract and extend to maintain healthy tissue, muscle tone and range of motion.
Amazing physical changes happen when you improve your flexibility. As you improve in your stretching, your movements acquire a marked fluidity. You stand taller and feel more alert. Our body language, muscle memory, strength and endurance improve, minimizing the risk of new injuries and helping to alleviate, and in some cases completely overcome, the ongoing effects of older injuries.
The more time you spend stretching, looking inwardly, the more conflict you release in your body. This is reflected in your relationships; a profound understanding of human condition turns into love towards us and the world. Stretching brings you into the present moment. The past is an illusion, there is nothing about it we can change, and the future is just an expectation. The present is the only tangible reality. Being here and now brings contentment and peace of mind.
Flexibility determines how graceful you are in every expression of your body language. Your posture, the way you walk, dance, your reflexes; all make you look and feel young and vital. Flexibility improves your strength because contraction and extension of the muscles go together. The contraction of a muscle does not necessarily imply that the muscle shortens; it only means that tension has been generated.
Muscles can contract in the following ways: isometric contraction; for example attempting to push an immobile object, and isotonic contraction; when you successfully push or pull an object. Isotonic contraction can be further divided into concentric contraction; when the muscle shortens during exercise, and eccentric contraction; when the muscle lengthens during exercise. During a concentric contraction, the muscles that are shortening do all of the work. During an eccentric contraction the muscles that are lengthening do all the work.
Flexibility releases pain and prevents injuries. Bad postures can compress the organs, affecting the digestion, peristalsis and breathing. When breathing and digestion occur efficiently the immune system is not overtaxed and can defend the body more capably. Yoga is one of the examples of how flexibility, breathing and strengths can affect your spiritual life; you open yourself to goodness and better connection with people and your environment. Space in your muscles creates space for the prana, chi, or vital energy to move more effectively, nourishing your functions.
The oldest exercises in China and India put emphasis in stretching. Yoga and Dao-In are based on stretching and improving the circulation of Chi or Prana through the channels of the body meridians or vayus. What was common knowledge in ancient times, scientific studies are validating today.