Maybe it's the natural reaction to the popularity of high intensity work-outs like CrossFit, SoulCycle or P90X (or maybe it's due to the physical effects of them) but there's a new rise in low-intensity workouts in the form of stretching classes. "I absolutely think this [stretching] trend is a reaction to the high intensity workouts that have been so popular throughout the last few years," says Heather Andersen, the founder and head instructor of New York Pilates, which has recently started offering a stretching class. "New Yorkers are ready to stop injuring themselves and the trend is moving toward thoughtful exercise." Andersen's New York Pilates offers three stretching classes a week at their Soho location (they also have studios in the West Village and Montauk) and the class uses the traditional pilates reformer machine with spring resistance "to create dynamic stretches," Andersen says. "We also use rollers and balls for various releasing techniques and self massage. The results are supple muscles that glide across one another so that movement is efficient and feels effortless."

Other studios in New York City emphasize the importance of stretching like New York Pilates. Studio Maya in Prospect Heights offers a foam-rolling stretch class that promises to "teach your muscles how to relax" and "relieve compression in your joints," among other benefits. Physique 57, the wildly popular barre workout class, offers a restorative stretching class that's meant to complement the workouts you do in their other classes.

But even if you're not regularly running half-marathons or signing up for high intensity workout classes, Andersen says the benefits of stretching are helpful for any type of lifestyle. "For the desk jockey or aging population, stretching maintains normal range of motion and is necessary for good posture and spinal health," she says.

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