Stretch! For health, vitality and inner peace

By Kay Wagner LMP, CPT | Oct 05, 2011

I couldn’t believe my eyes. A humming bird was perched on a wire near the feeder one morning doing neck rolls, shoulder (wing) circles, twists and torso rotations.  All the same stretches we do!  

Later I learned that humming birds do morning stretches and flying drills every day.  Even our pets stretch regularly.  Ever see a dog rising from a nap to stretch its hips up, front paws down?  The yoga stretch Down Facing Dog follows this body sense.

Whether you desire weight loss, more energy, better posture, increased range of motion or healing of painful muscles, don’t underestimate the power of stretching.  

A healthy muscle is always in a state of contract/release.  During contraction it squeezes out toxins and used blood.  Then during relaxation, fresh, nourishing blood flows in.  The knots lengthen.  The muscle gets infused with fresh air and circulation.

But tight muscles hold on to the toxins and used blood.  They are closed off to fresh nutrients.  Our muscles need to be elongated to stay healthy. No wonder we see infants stretching and breathing deeply!

Acupressure meridians run throughout the body.  Holding and breathing with a stretch opens up these energy channels.  

With yoga in particular, many positions stimulate these energy channels to energize the major organ meridians.  This helps to detoxify the body, improve digestion and open nerve flow.

Feeling stressed?  When we release muscle tension our body and mind feel more relaxed.

Want to improve your posture?  You’ll need to stretch to help the muscles that have been holding tight, to lighten their load.  The tight chest, neck and shoulder muscles can let go, stretch and breathe.

Deep stretching greatly increases body awareness.  It helps us stay tuned-in.  We learn to listen and pay attention to what we are feeling with in our own body, our ONLY body!  

And a strong, flexible muscle resists injury better than a stiff muscle. Limber muscles also create better balance and coordination.

When is the best time to stretch?  When your muscles are warm.

If you stretch before you get out of bed, try squeezing and flexing hands, arms, torso and lower body, holding for a deep breath.  Release.  Repeat with deep breathing until you feel warmth in your muscles.   Now your stretching will work and feel better.

During or after a bath is an excellent time for stretching.  And during and after physical activity is the prime time for stretching.

While stretching, ease off a bit if your muscles shake.  You’ll find the muscle ‘letting go’ in relief.  This is when you can really gain flexibility.

Sometimes a DVD can help with our home flexibility program.  I like “AM and PM Stretch,” with Madeline Lewis and “Elements AM/PM Yoga.” Both are filmed in beautiful settings with excellent instruction.

Stretching during stressful times has brought me great peace. It’s helped me lose weight and heal injuries.  And it’s free and legal!

Stretching is a wonderful way for us to nourish body, mind and spirit.  With a flexible mind and body, we are primed to enjoy life and the colors of the changing season.

Kay Wagner LMP & NASM Certified Personal Trainer, leads Strength Training, Yoga & Pilates at Rosehill Community Center.  Kay offers PERSONAL TRAINING & SPA FACIAL MASSAGE in her studio overlooking the mountains and water, at 828 2nd St. in Mukilteo. Call 425-353-4545. Visit

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