The tighter your muscles get, the less mobility you have’and the older you feel and act. That’s why, to get the most out of our fitness efforts, we need to stretch as part of a daily routine. ‘We should move our joints through their ranges of motion on a regular basis,’ says Lea Amaral, a yoga and kettlebell instructor, and the owner of Toronto’s Energia Athletics. ‘If we don’t, the connective tissues could shorten and lose mobility, resulting in a reduced ability to sit upright, twist or bend; and an increase in stiffness, pain and fatigue.’
Amaral’s favourite daily stretch is the Reclining Twist. ‘This stretch lengthens many muscles at the same time, and it gets into deeper fascia’the connective tissue in areas such as the chest, shoulder, obliques, IT band and glutes. When you spend time in the stretch, your body relaxes’first the muscles, then the joints, and, as your breath deepens, the nervous system.’
Lie on your back with knees bent. With your hands, guide bent knees downward to the left as far as they will drop. ‘You can use a pillow under your knees if there is a space between them and the floor,’ advises Amaral. Extend left and right arms out to both sides at shoulder height. ‘You should feel a mild to moderate stretch along the entire right side of your body.’ Hold the stretch for two minutes, breathing deeply. Repeat on the other side.