Yoga pays a lot of attention to breathing – Yoga has many special breathing exercises, ranging from the simple to the downright esoteric. For martial artists and grapplers, however, the integration of breathing and stretching is of particular interest. Here is a simple, but very useful yoga principle to apply to your own stretching regimen.
When you are stretching breathe deeply and slowly. As you breath in imagine that your spine is getting longer and longer. Visualize the breath increasing the distance between your pelvis and the top of your head. Then, as you breathe out, really relax and try to go deeper into the stretch.
Repeat this in and out pattern to go deeper into the stretch, being sure to stop before you feel any pain.
Whether you are working towards touching your toes or doing the full splits this simple concept can really help you improve the quality of your stretching time.