Stretching should be part of your fitness routine as it reduces injuries, elongates your muscles and optimizes your body’s performance. Stretching is difficult for a lot of people because sometimes it doesn’t feel like we are even doing anything when we do it.
Personally I feel like when I am stretching I am not really working out and ask myself, what is this really doing? Although we don’t usually work up a sweat when we stretch (unless you are partaking in Hot Yoga) it is good to do regularly.
Stretching also gives us an opportunity to de-stress and reset the mind. There are two types of stretching static, which means holding a position without moving: and dynamic, which involves moving while you stretch.
If you have time to stretch only once during a workout, do it afterward. And even if you don’t exercise regularly, a regular stretching routine — shoot for three 15-minute sessions a week — can improve your mental and physical well-being.
For these home stretches all you need is a chair and the floor (yoga mat is good if you have one but not necessary). Most of us have those items around our house. Remember not to bounce, and hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds or until all the tension is gone from the muscle. Relax as much as you can before you begin to get the most from your stretch.
First, Relax Your Mind:
- Lie on your back. Gently roll your head from side to side a few times, then center it. Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest to lengthen your neck.
- Turn your palms face up. Allow your legs to relax to hip-width apart or more. Flatten your shoulder blades on the floor.
- Close your eyes and observe your breath. Scan your body for areas of tension, and either release it or accept it. Allow your mind to stay focused and alert.
- If your back hurts, place a rolled-up blanket or cushion under your knees, or put your feet on the floor, knees bent and relaxing in toward each other. To relieve eyestrain, cover your eyes with a folded washcloth.
- Go back to the Savasana for a few breaths between exercises and at the end of your session for relaxation-plus.
Tips Before Starting:
- Warm-Up. Stretching cold muscles increases your risk of injuries. Walk while gently pumping your arms, or do a favorite exercise at low intensity for 5 minutes.
- Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, or until you feel all the tension release from the muscle you’re working. It takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Hold your stretches for up to a minute for a really tight muscle or problem area. That can seem like a long time, so keep an eye on the clock to make sure you’re holding your stretches long enough.
- Don’t bounce. It can cause small muscle tears that can lead to even tighter, more painful muscles later.
- It shouldn’t hurt. If you feel pain as you stretch, you’ve gone too far. Hold the stretch at a pain-free point.
- Remember to breathe
Five Simple Stretches You Can Do at Home:
Hamstring Stretch – stretches backs of thighs
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you and toes point to the ceiling.
- Exhale as you bend from the hips and slide your hands down your legs towards your toes.
- Don’t round — keep your back long and flat.
- Breathe normally and hold for up to 30 seconds.
- Return to center position and inhale as you rise.
Child’s Pose – stretches back
- Start on all fours.
- Push back with your hands and bring your rear to your heels.
- Keep your forehead on the mat and round your spine.
- Extend your arms above your head or relax them at your sides.
- Breathe normally for 30 seconds.
Spine Stretch – stretches back, shoulders, abs
- Stand with your feet together.
- Bend from the hips and put your hands on top of the front of the chair seat.
- Inhale and glide your hands to the back of the chair seat, lengthening your spine.
- Exhale as you bring your hands towards your legs, dropping your chin to your chest and rounding your back, abs tight.
- Think about pulling your belly button to your spine. Alternate between the positions for 1 minute.
Chest stretch – stretches chest
- Find a wall or door jam and with your body parallel to the wall/door jam (would be standing in the door jam) raise arm closes to wall with elbow at shoulder height and hand straight up.
- Press arm into wall and turn body slightly while pushing.
- Do this for 30 seconds and repeat for other side.
Chair ballet stretches – stretches back, legs, hips, neck
- Place one heel on a chair in front of you.
- Keep both legs straight. Inhale as you raise your arms overhead.
- Exhale as you reach out over your leg, grabbing the back of the chair if possible.
- Inhale and return to a stand.
- Do this twice with the legs slightly turned out and twice with the legs parallel.
- Now, without taking your foot off the chair, turn your body so the chair is next to you and place your foot flat on the chair seat, knee bent.
- Inhale and lift your arms to shoulder height.
- Exhale and bend toward the chair; as you do that, hold the chair back with one hand and bring the other overhead.
- Inhale as you return to a stand.
- Do this stretch three times. Switch legs and begin with the front stretches.
Take some time for yourself today and stretch!