THREE WAYS TO GAIN THE BENEFITS OF STRETCHING— AND WHY YOU WANT THEM!
Maintaining flexibility throughout your life is vital for painfree mobility in the longterm. How flexible you are depends on a combination of genetics, age and activity. Some people are naturally more bendy than others, but no good genes can save the joints, muscle and fascia (the connective tissue mostly in between skin and muscle) from naturally stiffening up as you age. “Anywhere that tightens up can set you up for alterations in biomechanics that will always end in pain and malfunction,” says Erin Policelli, a physical therapist and owner of Stretch Kinetics in Buckhead. “You can get away without stretching for a long time, but it will catch up to you at some point.”
At Stretch Kinetics, licensed massage and physical therapists work to help you gain and preserve flexibility through a combination of stretching and massage. “Many of my clients come in just for wellness to make sure they can perform at their best at sports like biking and golfing, but a lot of people seek us out once [stiffness and pain] impact their function,” says Policelli. An initial visit ($135; $115 for subsequent appointments) includes a review of medical history during which the therapist makes sure your issue doesn’t require a doctor before proceeding. Next, a customized, hour long service follows in one of three sanitized private treatment rooms (where both therapists and patients mask up) to work out tension areas.
If you’d prefer to limber up yourself, try a stretch-centric fitness class such as Gentle Yoga ($25 for dropin) at YogaWorks’ Brookhaven and Dunwoody studios, where currently, a small group attends at a social distance. Instructor Jessica Calderon, who teaches the Brookhaven class, describes it as a series of slow, low to- the-ground movements, joint rolls, seated postures and stretches. “The spine is the arc of health. The more mobile we are in our spines, the more optimally our bodies will function. We work on forward and side bending and twisting,” Calderon says. As with most yoga, there is an emphasis on the breath to help release tension, energy blockages and emotion.
Calderon cautions that just because a workout is slow and stretchy doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. Holding positions for long periods of time can be very uncomfortable. “Taking a moment to ‘just be’ is sometimes a lot harder. We’re asking ourselves to sit with the discomfort of the stretch without other distractions. The gentler work can often be the deeper work,” she says.
For an alternative to yoga, check out fitness studio Stretch Society, with new area locations. The various 45-minute classes ($25 for drop-in) of up to 12 people focus on a combination of stretching, bodyweight movements and balance exercises. The dimly lit studios boasting wall projections of serene imagery are set to fun playlists and leverage tools such as stretching straps and mobility sticks.
“One of the most significant elements to true wellness and a healthy body is recovery. Stretching will help with range of motion, decreased muscle tension, improved blood flow and reduction of stress. All of these combined will lead to faster recovery after workouts, decreased risk of injury and better movement,” says Stephanie Maxim, operating partner at Stretch Society.
The moral of the story: Don’t be a stiff. Consistent stretching does a body good.
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Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.