Today we’re going to talk about stretching and why I love it so much.

When was the last time you stretched? Really warmed up all your muscles and joints before you started something or just as a form of exercise itself? Has it been that long? And when you did, did you jump right into stretching or did you warm up before your “warm up?”

Total body stretching has a wealth of benefits and is not the waste of time that many people think it is. The Mayo Clinic reports that stretching helps decrease your risk of injury and improves your range of motion. Stretching should be done before most forms of exercise and can be done as exercise alone for those that are mostly sedentary.

Did you know that you shouldn’t stretch cold muscles? Many folks think nothing of hopping out before going for a jog and immediately stretching cold muscles. Try to always take five minutes to walk around before beginning a stretching routine; another helpful tip from the Mayo Clinic. Also, don’t bounce around from stretch to stretch quickly. Pulling your body into set positions just to pop it back out and go to a different one can be more harmful than good, removing all the benefits of stretching. Not only should you move the body into that stretch hold slowly, you should hold it once it is there for up to a minute. This makes sure you’re not overtaxing the muscle. Slow, methodical movements while doing deep breaths will be better for your body.

Stretching I’ve found, is a great idea to begin a safe way to extend your body’s range of motion and increase your muscles ability to move. Those that have chronic pain and illness can start a 30 minute or hour set of stretches that work the body head to toe and will reap the benefits of that. I’d recommend three times a week to start, then perhaps making it a part of your daily routine for the best results.

Stretching sessions can be found online, through DVDs, and from some of our local venues. Finding a trainer is one way to ensure that you’re doing it correctly and won’t be prone to injury from incorrect positioning unlike doing it on your own. Always use common sense, even when it’s “just stretching”; you want to be mindful of areas that have been injured and give them ample time to heal before you go stretching that joint or muscle.

I hope that stretching becomes a normal, daily part of your life, either by easing it into your morning routine before starting the day, or as a standard part of your exercise plan. No matter how you decide to incorporate it, do it mindfully with careful attention to how your body is responding. Listen to your body, don’t overdo it. Even things that are good for you can become bad if done wrong or in excess.

Tina Samuels, a native of Rome, is a local yoga instructor and shiatsu bodywork therapist. Readers can email her at romebodywork@gmail.com.