I know. It’s the E word. We all know that there are umpteen reasons why we should exercise. We know that we feel better when we exercise regularly. Most of us know that it increases circulation. But did you know that stretching increases circulation as well?
I have debated what type of exercise is best for me for a while now. I enjoyed exercising in the past, but I am limited on time. I am often inhibited by weather as well—if it’s cold outside, I certainly do not want to head out on a bicycle. I generally hate gyms and prefer to go outside, so this was a bit of a battle for me.
What works for me is to do a mix of yoga and ballet stretches on my own floor. I like that I do not need any special props, and it feels natural. The rationale for making time for stretching is that stretching muscles works similarly to massage in that it loosens the muscles, releasing toxins and increases blood flow to the muscles, as well as the neighboring tissue. Think about it: If your neck and shoulders are wound tightly, those poor blood vessels are not getting much room to relax either.
I usually start with reaching to the sky, reaching around in a circle (like moving through positions in ballet), and then the rest is floor work. After the Bridge, some hip stretching, and reaching for my toes, I feel like a new woman. The whole routine takes about 10 mins max and takes away the ache in my hips and back. Besides that benefit, however, I find that my arms and hands are less cold and more pink with improved circulation on the days that I stretch.
If you haven’t tried stretching your muscles, I recommend doing it at the same time each day (choose day or night, for example) and make it a habit. It’s a chance to reflect on your day. I like to listen to music and pray, and I do feel that it is an added benefit to lighten the weight on my soul whilst trying to loosen my muscles.
Incidentally, I have also measured my blood pressure before and after stretching, and during those times of heightened stress and elevated blood pressure, I have been able to lower my systolic blood pressure up to 20 mmHg just by stretching and praying while listening to soothing music. It really works, and I highly recommend it as a habit for better circulation and life in general.