We all know the benefits of stretching before and after regular exercise. Whether we learned it from our PE teacher or our favourite sports coach, it's been drilled into our brains that stretching helps reduce the risk of tearing, straining, or otherwise injuring muscles and joints. It also allows our muscles to cool down after physical activity, often guarding against stiffness and soreness later.
Stretching after your massage is a way of preserving the benefits.
Stretching after you exercise is also a way of preserving the benefits of the activity you just did. When you stretch you prevent your muscles from seizing up and retain the strength and elasticity within.
These same principles apply to stretching after a massage. Running through some quick cool-down techniques can help your body retain the relaxation and flexibility achieved through your massage session.
Why should you stretch after your massage?
Undergoing regular massage sessions helps to increase blood flow and circulation, and often creates friction in the tissues. During these practices tissues and muscles are pulled away from one another, creating a sense of relaxed looseness.
When we stretch after a massage session we maintain this looseness in the muscles and the tissues while also keeping joints mobile.
Your massage practitioner can help you determine exactly what stretches would be best for you.
4 post-massage stretch techniques you can use at home
As always, your stretching routine will differ depending on your individual needs and limitations. Your massage practitioner can help you determine exactly what stretches would be best for you, but here are a set of common options for your post-massage routine.
1. Forward fold
While standing, slowly bend at your waist. Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed and allow your body to dangle in place. This will naturally allow your spine to decompress. If you're looking to release some tension try swaying slowly from side to side. Your chin should drop to your chest so your neck isn't working to hold your head.
When you want to get back up, make sure you return upright very slowly with your knees bent. Try your best to lead with the hips so that your shoulders and head are the last things to realign upright.
This movement deeply stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves while opening the hips and relieving tension in the neck and shoulders.
2. Knee hold
Lie down on your back and bring one knee to your chest. Hold the knee in place with clasped hands and stay in this position for around 60 seconds. Alternate between your two knees. If you're keen to deepen the stretching sensation, press your knee into your palms to create more resistance.
This position is especially beneficial to keep your lower back more limber.
3. Standing arm pull and bend
Stand up and ensure you have proper spine alignment by placing your hips over your ankles with relaxed knees. Start by stretching your arms overhead and then, one arm at a time, reach your fingertips higher and higher.
With your arms stretched proceed to lean side to side. The stretch sensation should be felt in your ribs and obliques. If you want to go even deeper with this stretch try grabbing the alternate wrist as you lean side to side.
4. Cat - cow
Get on all fours and ensure your:
- Knees are hip-width distance.
- Hands are directly below your shoulders.
- Spine is neutral.
Inhale while dropping your belly and lifting your gaze and your tailbone towards the sky. This is known as Cow Pose. From there, exhale slowly and tuck your chin in towards your chest. At the same time, lift the middle of your back towards the sky and tuck your tailbone under. This is the Cat Pose. Repeat these motions three to five times and then return to a neutral spine.
This series gently warms up and strengthens the spine, improving posture and balance. It's also a good stretch for the abdomen and hips.
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While these post-stretch massages are nice, there's nothing quite as rehabilitating as the massage itself.
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