Strength, balance and flexibility—is your workout achieving this golden trio? When focusing on cardio and lifting, even health-conscious people may overlook stretching as another essential component of staying agile, extending youthfulness and supplying nutrients throughout the body for maximum health. Stretching is particularly beneficial for hairdressers, who stand all day, raise both arms for long periods of time and use hand muscles to grasp shears, irons and blowdryers.
“Doing stretches regularly will make it less likely that you’ll get injured,” says Ashley Hershner, master massage therapist at one of the five Mitchell’s Salon and Spa locations in the Cincinnati area.
“You’ll have better circulation, and stretching makes you more aware of your body so that if you have pain, you’ll know how to fix it.”
When we refer to stretching, typically we’re talking about static stretching—pulling our body parts to get them to loosen up. A second type of stretching, dynamic stretching, includes in-motion exercises like arm circles and leg swings. Although static stretching was once considered a must-do before a workout, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) a decade ago concluded that static stretching before a workout provided no benefit, and further studies have indicated that it can even limit some athletes’ performance. Today static stretching is more often advised as a cool-down, whereas dynamic stretching can warm up the muscles beforehand.
Stretching gains extra power when paired with breathing techniques, which might be why yoga gets a thumbs up from the medical community.
“Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure while improving flexibility, muscle stamina, lung capacity and a sense of well-being,” writes author Dominique Grignetti in a City of Hope article promoting yoga for cancer patients. Lifelong exercise advocate Martha Pinto, a stylist at Makeovers Salon and Spa near Boston, practices the PiYo program, a hybrid of yoga and Pilates. She’s found this helps her to keep her spine aligned and manage her scoliosis.
“We’re constantly on our feet, moving our arms and bending,” Pinto says. “Even if you just do some yoga during a 15-minute break, it will help you to feel better.”
At Mitchell’s, the salon and spa teams help each other out. That approach has Hershner and the other massage therapists regularly massaging hairdressers, nail techs and estheticians.
“Daily stretches for the hand and the forearm have helped keep my forearms and hands from getting tight over the course of a busy workday,” Hershner says. “You learn correct posture at school and think you’ll remember it, but when you get on the floor, you are so concerned with giving the client the best experience possible that you forget to take care of yourself.”
Whether you’re a nail tech gripping a brush to scrub feet or a hairdresser squeezing that flatiron, your hand muscles take a beating. Hershner recommends sitting with the pelvis tilted forward when in a chair and says a good pillow is a wise in-vestment to support the neck during sleep, because it’s especially important to get enough rest.
“Throughout the day, gravity pinches the discs and squeezes the cartilage together,” she says. “Sleeping relieves that pressure on the discs.”
Here, Hershner describes some of her favorite stretches for salon professionals. Her model for this guide, provided exclusively to Healthy Hairdresser, is Brianna Brewster, receptionist at Mitchell’s Westchester location. Hold each stretch for two seconds, release slowly for two seconds and repeat multiple times.
Disclaimer: Each stretch should be done carefully and to your own pain tolerance, Hershner says. Do not push your body too far, too fast. Some people might need modifications. Always consult a professional before doing serious stretching.