"I can’t imagine a day where I didn’t stretch, it’s a natural daily ritual for me. Coming from a dance background, stretching was part of the job. It felt good, increased my flexibility, which increased my range of motion, which is particularly important for a dancer. Stretching prepped my muscles pre-class, for auditions or performance and helped my body to recover post.
However you don’t need to have a dance history to get involved. Everybody can benefit from stretching, whether you are an athlete or an office worker. Don’t be put off by the well-limbered instructors who can demonstrate advanced postures, we don’t mean to discourage you! Everybody is different and we are here to help you loosen up and find the confidence to stretch.
Movement is hugely therapeutic and certain exercises or yoga postures affect how we feel and how our internal systems function. The liver has a very important job - it’s the body’s largest glad used for detoxification. It is responsible for purifying blood, producing bile and digesting fats.
HOW TO STRETCH
There are several ways to stretch that can bring you body back into balance. Depending on which muscles you are wanting to focus on, there are several exercises and props to assist you. Here are some of my top tips:
TAKE YOUR TIME
Ease into a stretch or onto a foam roller. You should feel the muscles lengthen, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Don’t rush and apply enough pressure to get a good stretch or release. If you are using a prop such as a foam roller, move at an inch per second and build up to moving in multiple directions. Eventually you will feel the muscles release. Slowing down your breath pattern will help keep it smooth and aid relaxation as you stretch and massage out any tension.
DON'T TIE YOURSELF IN KNOTS
When stretching you need to be gentle and don’t force anything. Remember what is right for some, may not be right for you. Focus on how it feels and not what it looks like.
FOCUS ON ONE AREA
Instead of trying to stretch the whole body, focus on a key area. Linger where it feels good and pause for a few seconds over a tight spot.
COMMON TIGHT SPOTS
The calf muscles are a common tight spot and therefore an important area to stretch out. The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle and the soleus is smaller and flatter, which lies underneath the gastrocnemius. They can get tight from running, increased cardio sessions, high heels, flat shoes or bio-mechanical problems of the foot.
An easy way to stretch this muscle is by simply using a step. Place just your tip toes on the step and release by dropping your heels off the edge. Try one heel at at time then ease both heels off. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Alternatively you can push against a wall, stepping one leg back and shifting weight onto your front leg, bending at the knee. Feel the back heel reach towards the floor for a great release. Hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat on the other side.
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles that are responsible for extension of the thigh and flexion of the knee. When the hamstrings are tight it becomes very difficult to touch your toes from standing or sitting. This tightness can have consequences elsewhere in the body and tight hamstrings can lead to lower back tension. Try using a LDM resistance band or yoga strap and push one foot into the middle of the band, flex the foot to focus into the hamstrings and the calve. Walk the hands up the band to deepen the stretch. Alternatively use a chair, table or barre to rest one leg against with your foot on the chair, table or ankle hooked over the barre. Take an easy spiral twist to lengthen the spine (opposite arm to outside knee/thigh) release centre and fully extend your leg as you hop back or push away. Start to rest your head, neck and shoulders down as you fold over and arms reach towards your feet. Take a few deep breaths in this position. Easy inhale and exhale to aid this stretch. Try using your exhale breath to slowly increase the stretch as your chest lowers towards your thigh. Hold for 20-30 seconds then slowly unfold and repeat on the other leg.
By adding these below yoga poses into your practise, you will assist your liver in functioning to its very best:
SPIRAL TWIST SUPINE - Supta Matsyendrasana
Stretch out your spine, glutes and massage out to soothe your internal organs.
COBRA POSE - Bhujangasana
This posture stretches the whole length of the spine and the transverse and rectus abdominals and neck muscles. By stretching the abdominal wall you also transfer blood flow to the liver.
FORWARD FOLD - Padangusthasana
This posture helps to calm the mind and nervous system. The hamstrings lengthen, which can help ease any lower back pain. Your liver gets a little massage from the body being folded.
YOGA INVERSIONS - headstands, shoulder stands, handstands and forward folds.
These poses increase the lymph flow by reversing it, which helps the body to rid itself from any impurities built up in different organs, including the liver.
If you're keen to introduce more flexibility into your life then seek out a flexibility focused class, such as yoga or Pilates. Why not learn to touch your toes with me. Myself and the LDM team teach a mix of classes and events around London which are designed to introduce you to my signature moves and choreography.
LDM Reset is a mobility class that teaches you to release and reset your body back into balance using several props & LDM Flow is a dynamic yoga-fusion class. Both will leave you feeling uplifted, relaxed and a couple of inches taller!"
Access the Method: www.louisadrake.com | @louisadrake_LDM
All photography by Oly Barnsely