There’s nothing worse than waking up after a full night’s rest only to feel worse than when you fell asleep in the first place. Aches and pains overrun the body and make you feel like you got in a fight and lost while sleeping. While your mattress or pillow may play a role in those aches and pains, when was the last time you stretched? Often, stretching is thought of as something you do before a physical activity. While that is true, we should also have a daily stretch routine, even if there aren’t any plans for physical activities.
Making stretching apart of your daily routine is very important. Stretching helps our body prepare to do physical work but it also keeps our joints, muscles, and entire body healthy. Once you add a few stretches to your daily stretching routine, you will feel the difference and not want to go back. Stretching properly is also important when you do, your muscles will get softer and become resilient, you’ll offset and wear and tear, and most importantly, keep your joints happy. Most stretches aren’t that difficult either, which means you can do them in the morning, afternoon, or at night.
Neck muscles are among the most common muscles that become stiff or painful. Especially after a rough night’s sleep, the neck is what people complain about the most. With just a few minutes per day, you can complete this stretch for the neck and prevent those aches.
Seated Neck Release – Sit straight up in a chair or on the floor in a seated pose with your knees together. No matter how you sit, make sure you’re comfortable and sitting straight up. Take your chin straight down to your chest and take your right arm and place it on the back of your head. Press the back of your head gently until you feel the stretch and hold it there for 10 seconds. Then, tilt your head to the right until you feel a stretch and hold again for 10 seconds. Repeat that motion to the left. Once your neck feels loose, you can release your energy and let your head drop. Roll your head from left to right, stopping at each shoulder for one to two minutes or until your neck feels relaxed.
Another part of the body that is often associated with muscle aches is the shoulder. Shoulders are not used very often so when they do get used, they get sore fast. Stretching the shoulders is a good way to get better posture, relieve tension and prevent pain in the upper back and neck.
Threading the Needle – Start out on all fours, keeping your knees slightly apart and directly underneath your hips. Make sure your back is straight, think “tabletop”, hands down and elbows aligned with your wrists. Take your right hand and thread it through the space between your left arm and leg. Hold that position and allow your body to gently drop, letting your left arm lie flat and your right cheek to rest on the floor. Hold this pose for about a minute and then repeat with the left side.
The spine is one of the most important parts of our bodies. It connects our bodies from the skull to the tailbone. Anytime we have poor posture throughout the day or night, our spine is directly affected in a negative way. It’s important to stretch properly so that we can avoid stiffness in our backs.
Standing Overhead Wall Stretch – Stand facing a wall, about a foot away. Spread your feet apart about 6 inches and hold your arms straight up and against the wall. Slowly let your chest sink in between your arms towards the wall. Focus on your belly button coming in towards your spine. Hold this position for a few deep breaths, about 30 seconds. Bring your chest back up slowly and return to the standing position. If you feel comfortable, repeat the stretch two or three more times.
The abdominal muscles do more than you think, we refer to it as your core. Whether you’re tying your shoes or workout out at the gym, your core is activated. Stretching your core is important because it plays such a big role in our everyday lives.
Camel Pose Stretch – The camel pose not only activates your core, it also lengthens your spine and stretches your quadriceps. Hitting all of these parts of your body, this stretch is one of the best ones you can do but it’s also slightly uncomfortable. Don’t feel like you need to do this stretch perfectly the first time, let your body become more flexible over time. Start out with your knees on the floor, spine straight up and legs directly behind your knees. Place your palms on the back of your hips with your fingers facing down. Gently lean back and face the ceiling until you feel the stretch in your abdominals. You can stop right when you start to feel the stretch or you can take it further back. Take both hands and place them on your heels with fingers pointing towards your toes. Lift your pelvis and allow your neck to relax you look behind you. Go as deep as you feel comfortable with and hold for 30-60 seconds. To get out of this stretch, place your hands back on your hips and slowly roll your spine back into a straight position. Rest for a minute and then repeat one more time.
The hip joint is a simple ball and socket joint and it has a surprising amount of flexibility. We use our hips both for movement and to stabilize ourselves which is why it’s important to keep them healthy and in great shape.
Pendulum Stretch – To begin this stretch lie flat on your back with both arms to the side. Bring your legs together and lift them directly up into the air. Keep your inner thighs together, ideally, your toes should be pointed towards the ceiling. Take both legs and bring them to the left towards the floor. Don’t let them rest on the floor, instead, hold them just above the floor. Return your legs to the air and then move them to the right side, this is one rep. Repeat both sides about ten to fifteen times.
Walking the dog or around the mall does not count as lower body engagement and that’s a problem. Our thighs have a number of muscles that want our attention, badly. Make it your mission to give that attention to your thighs and stretch them daily.
Lunge Stretch – Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart keeping your back straight and upright. Take your right foot and take a big step forward until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle. Your left leg should be just a few inches above the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds while breathing slowly and then return to a standing position. Switch legs and repeat the process to make one rep. Go for five reps total.
Stiff-Leg Deadlift Stretch – Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rest your palms on your thighs. Look straight ahead and then bend at the hips making sure your back is straight. Bring your fingertips towards the floor and maintain a slight bend in the knees. Repeat the move 15 times.