Whether you’re a chronic sitter, a daily exerciser, or a weekend warrior, you probably know stretching is a critical habit. By sending blood flow to your muscles and helping your joints move through their full range of motion, stretching improves your posture and athletic performance while lowering your risk of pain and injury in everyday life.
If there’s one universal truth about stretching, it’s that we all should do it. Yet few of us actually do. By taking a few minutes in the morning and in the middle of your day to focus on stretching, it can make a world of difference not only with your flexibility but it can also help with mental clarity and anxiety.
In the AM, take 5-10 minutes to do these easy yet effective stretches IN BED!
On an inhale, reach your arms overhead, clasp your fingers together, flip your palms out toward the wall behind your head, and push your palms away from you. At the same time, reach your toes away from your arms, keeping your knees straight. Hold this fully stretched position for 5 counts, then exhale and release the stretch. Repeat 3 times total. This releases tightness throughout the entire body, which tends to accumulate during sleep. (1)
Cross your right foot over your left knee, making the shape of the number 4. Slowly bend your left knee up toward the ceiling, either keeping the left foot on your mattress or hugging it in toward your chest. Be sure to keep your right knee bent out to the right as you try to maintain this shape. Hold for 5 deep breaths, then switch sides. This stretch helps lubricate the hip joints, thighs, and glutes. (2)
Swing your feet over the side of the bed so that they touch the floor. Keeping your knees bent, hang your head and arms down to the floor, rounding your back over your knees. Let your head and arms dangle to the floor; hold for 5 breaths. This helps stretch the back and helps you wake up thanks to a fresh supply of oxygen to the brain. (3)
From Knees-to-Chest Stretch, release your grip of your shins and let your arms fall out to a “T” shape on either side of your torso. Use your core to guide your legs over to rest on one side, keeping your knees bent and shoulders planted down into your mattress. If it’s easy on your neck, gaze toward the opposite side. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side. Twists like this one awaken the body by increasing circulation and stretching the spinal muscles. (4)
From a supine position, bend your knees until the soles of your feet are on the bed. Use your hands to draw one knee in toward your chest at a time, wrapping your arms around both shins. Relax your head on your pillow and hold this “self-hug” for 10 deep breaths, says Brooke Blocker, a yoga teacher in New York City. This stretch helps you gently wake up the low back and stimulate the mind and body, helping you feel ready to start your day. (5)
Seated Forward Bend
Begin by lifting your torso upright from a reclined position. Keeping your legs straight, inhale and lengthen through your spine; as you exhale, start to walk your fingertips toward your feet. Keep lengthening your spine with your inhalation and sink a bit deeper into this seated forward fold with your exhalation. When you get to your farthest point, let your neck hang heavy toward your legs, releasing any tension. After 10 rounds of breath, slowly lift your torso back up. This forward bend is especially beneficial after resting all night and before standing or sitting all day, as it stretches the hamstrings, pelvis, and spine. (6)
In the middle of your day, try these seated stretches!
Seated Spinal Twist
This is a great way to release the tension in your back that starts building up almost as soon as you sit down.
Sit on your chair sideways so that your shoulders and back are perpendicular to the back of the chair. Sit up straight, place your feet on the ground and place your hands on the back of the chair. Using your arms, twist, pulling yourself toward the chair. Switch the side of the chair you’re sitting on and repeat. This pose stretches out the spine, chest, and neck. Take approximately 8 to 10 breaths on each side. (1)
Do you know one of the primary differences between feeling old and feeling young? Spinal flexibility. If you’re starting to move around the office like a rheumatic orangutan, this move can definitely help.
Sit up straight, place your feet flat on the floor, and rest the palms of your hands on top of your knees. Inhale, arch your back and look up, pulling your shoulders back as you do so. This will open up the whole front of the torso and neck. When you exhale, round your spine, pull the shoulders toward each other at the front of the body and drop your head toward your chest. This will stretch and open the back, shoulders, and neck. Do approximately 8 to 10 complete rounds. (2)
This move will help take the burden of being a desk potato off of your shoulders and upper back.
While sitting, reach your arms straight out in front of you, keeping them parallel with your shoulders and shoulder-distance apart. Bend the left arm upward and sweep the right arm under it. Wrap your right arm around the left until you are able to grab the outside edge of the left arm or until you are able to clasp your palms together. Lift the elbows away toward the ceiling and pull your hands away from your face. Turn your head side-to-side. Repeat on the other side. This will stretch the muscles under the shoulder blades, the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Hold each side for approximately 8 to 10 breaths. (3)
Another issue with desk jobs is that they tend to cause you to develop pretty tight chest and shoulder muscles. Thankfully, none of our avian friends are invoked for this position—you can stay right in your chair and do it.
Simply interlace your fingers behind you and place your arms on the top of your chair’s backrest. Drop your chin to your chest. Your chest, shoulders, and neck will appreciate it. Hold this pose for 8 to 10 breaths. (4)
Wrist & Fingers Stretch
Stand, place both hands on your desk, palms faced down, fingertips facing your body. To intensify the stretch, lean forward. Hold the stretch until you feel the tension release. (5)
To give them relief, sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Bring your chin toward your chest and roll the right ear to the right shoulder. To intensify the stretch, place your left hand on top of your right shoulder and place your right hand just above your left ear. Gently apply pressure with the hand on your head hand and breathe through the stretch. Take approximately 8 to 10 breaths, then switch to the other side. (6)