How Stretching Affects Our Body and Mind

Posted by – August 03, 2011
Categories: Bodywork & Somatics

Don’t we all know how important it is to stretch, especially after a strenuous physical performance? What we might ignore is that it is crucial not only after doing sports but also before, as well as throughout the entire day.

As an enthusiastic amateur runner, stretching is no foreign word to me. However, let’s face it: How many times over the past few years did I forget or skip the stretching that would have been so useful? Of course, it takes some time and extra effort, but isn’t that worth it? Just remember the last time you forgot to stretch after a long run, or how you usually feel when you don’t stretch your body for enough time; then, I guess, the answer comes easily.

Personally, I haven’t been able to train much over the last months, and just when I decided to go back to regular and serious long runs, my back let me down. So now that I am gently getting back into running I’ve sworn to myself that I will rigorously respect a few rules, including serious stretching before and after my runs, as well as whenever I have some extra time throughout the day.

The Anatomy of StretchingIn my curiosity to learn why stretching was so important to make us feel comfortable in our bodies, I looked at a book on the topic: The Anatomy of Stretching by Brad Walker. By stretching, we actually lengthen our muscles and reduce general muscle tension in order to avoid injury. At the same time, we increase our general feeling of comfort and our ability to move freely. Furthermore, the author of the book mentions that we promote circulation, increase energy, develop body awareness and improve our posture, our coordination, and our relaxation and stress relief. Now, if these are not sufficient reasons to take stretching seriously…

If you want to know more, I highly recommend The Anatomy of Stretching by Brad Walker. The book will give you a good idea of the different types of stretches and the rules for safe stretching. It also contains numerous well-explained chapters on appropriate stretches for the different body parts. Guess which chapter I am going to study carefully? It’s chapter 9, “Stretches for the Back and Sides.”

If you want to go even further, let me point to another title that might interest you: The Body Encyclopedia: A Guide to the Psychological Functions of the Muscular System, by Lisbeth Marcher and Sonja Fich. This encyclopedia provides you with a detailed description of 154 human muscles and related tissues, including illustrations showing each muscle. The authors examine the connections between psychological and physical features in human beings, that is, how body and mind are related. Even though the book is certainly targeted towards professionals, it may be used by anyone who is interested in knowing more about the connection between the moving body and the mind. Body Encyclopedia

And isn’t it exactly that connection we experience after a pleasant run and soothing stretching? The positive effect it has on our mind to feel our body with all its muscles and to sense that our body and mind belong together, that they are in harmony with each other? Leafing through those titles made me want to learn more about the complex topic and certainly strengthened my wish to allow my body and mind the stretching sessions they need to feel good.

So now let me ask you about your stretching habits and experience. When and how do you stretch, and can you feel the benefit of a good stretch? Please share your experiences with us!

Tags: Anatomy

About the Author

Anne Kathrin Probst is currently doing a publicity internship at North Atlantic Books. She is from Switzerland, where she normally works as a French teacher. Her passions are literature, languages, traveling, cinema, theater, writing, sports (especially running and rollerblading), hiking and eating good (vegetarian) food.