Hi you all,
hope you are having the most out of this summer 2020 :)
I would like to leave here in my website a piece of an article to talk about a huge misconception many of us have about yoga and what means stretching everyday from a BIOMECHANICAL and PHYSIOLOGICAL point of view.
First questions to answer is, what happen “internally, to your muscles and connective tissues, when you stretch? and how do you get flexible "biomechanically"?
When you stretch, basically what you are going to do is increasing the excursion in all those tissues - muscles, tendons, ligaments and the first but the most short-term, acute and fastest effect is into the muscles.
What is physically happening to all these tissues?
Saying that each body is different and made up of specific and unique amount of collagen type 1 and 3 and elastin, and by keeping in mind that what tendons do not really like is to be stretched…well, the actual piece of physiology that changes with stretching is the water content in the material. It varies from body to body, age, gender, use of the tissues and/or traumas or scar tissues these materials had suffered.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6536550/#:~:text=The%20water%20content%20of%20musculoskeletal,of%20ligaments%20and%20tendons1.&text=The%20water%20content%20of%20soft%20tissues%2C%20however%2C%20can%20be%20modified)
Another way that has an impact in contributing into the improvement of flexibility, therefore of the range of motion of specific parts of your body, is, that you actually modify the sensation of “pain” into the tissues. So, to gain more flexibility, should you become more NUMB to the pain? Well, sort of. You might experience some mild pain the first time you are going to stretch, but you actually desensitise yourself to that pain by over repeating.
What else is going to change when stretching, is the ability of our body to send signals straight to/from the spinal cord located along our back. To explain this, the body has an alpha-gamma reflex loop. Any time you stretch, there is this AUTOMATIC signal that gets sent to the spinal cord (It doesn’t even go to the brain and back) which tells directly to the muscles to contract. That coactivation of the muscles to contract would be bad for stretching, right? So over time, you can DOWN regulate this reflex loop.
Lastly, by stretching you actually add length to the muscle fibres. How this can even happen?! This is possible by adding sarcomeres, which are sort of contractile unit producing the active contraction of the muscle. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcomere)
Quick recap of what I've discussed briefly here:
Stretching can change:
Water content in your muscles
How much you feel pain ( sensitivity to pain)
Length of your muscle fibres
Studies have found that to get the most benefits out of the stretching, which the main goal for the great portion of average people is to improve the range of motion, is when you ease into the stretching and hold the position from 30 to 60 seconds at least.
Most important question to answer in this article is: For how long should you stretch? how many times per week should you do it?
Studies got to the conclusion that a total of 5 minutes per muscle group PER WEEK, is going to give the best benefits and improvement to get a good range of motion and flexibility results. So, to get back to the misconception about yoga that more you stretch everyday and more beneficial it is for your body, the answer is: STRETCH with a frequency of 6 days per week but with a total for muscle group of 5 minutes per week.
I want to specify that in this article I’m referring to average people who enjoy the practice of yoga and/or the main goal is to improve their range of motion and ease some parts of the body in order to find relaxation and be more functional in their every day life and not, in specific, to elite athletes. These studies might be useful and applied to them as well, but they might need particular attention from specific practitioners.
Hope you enjoyed again the reading.