Q: I feel really frustrated with yoga. I have tried several classes and videos and continue to find most poses painful and non-relaxing and I absolutely hate the "competitive" factor I feel when taking classes. However, I do love the way my muscles feel when I stretch. Would a stretching program be as effective as yoga for my body?
A: YES! Undoubtedly stretching has been the most ignored aspect of the fitness pyramid, largely because most people don't realize that stretching can change your body as effectively as cardiovascular or strength training or yoga for that matter. The American College of Sports Medicine recently indicated that people should stretch major muscle groups two to three days per week and that stretching is as valuable as any other type of exercise. I love that stretching is intended for people of all ages, sizes and physical conditions and is kind to your body.
Stretching benefits include: looking taller, thinner and leaner, relieving stress and tension, creating muscle tone, increasing coordination and circulation, and providing that invaluable link between a sedentary life and an active one.
As always I would start slowly, preferably with the help of an educated instructor, book or video. I recommend Bob Anderson’s book, Stretching. His book provides helpful illustrations of many stretches, while also explaining which part of the body you’re benefiting.
If you ever visit Portland, OR., I would love to invite you to one of my Stretch Appeal classes. I teach both an ACTIVE and SOFT stretch practice. Both programs create numerous advantages as well as an increased understanding of breath, relaxation, core strength and increased flexibility, to name just a few.