Our bodies and brains are incredibly intertwined. The wellbeing of our body directly informs the quality of our mental wellness. We aren’t always the kindest to our bodies. We spend extended periods of time sitting at desks, crunched over books and computers. Or we are on our feet all day, our legs growing stiff from supporting our bodies.
One of the best things you can do for your body is to stretch, engage and realign muscles in a relaxed manner. Before or after exercise, a long day of sitting, or a day of standing – anytime is a good time to stretch.
Below are five simple stretches that target some of our neediest body parts. Each stretch should be held for about thirty seconds. Stretches that take place on one side of your body, should be taken on the other side as well.
- Seated Back Twist
The back is a very important part of the body that is often stressed and strained by daily activities. There are many kinds of spinal twists that release tension building in the back. In this particular spinal twist, sit cross legged on the ground with your right knee on top. Center your left knee to your body, then pace your right foot beside your left glute, so that your right knee is no longer on the ground, but up by your chest. You may also remain in a traditional cross legged position if this feels too straining. Place your right hand behind you for support, then twist your body to the right, by bringing your right elbow to the right side of your raised right knee. You can push your elbow against your knee to twist even further to the right. Take this same stretch on your left side as well.
- Forward Fold
Another, simpler way to stretch the low back specifically, while also stretching hamstrings, shoulders and chest, is the forward fold. To engage in this stretch, stand so that your feet are parallel, about hips width apart, and facing forward. Raise your hands all the way over your head, fully extending the back. Then, with a flat back, bending at the waist, slowly bend forward. Be sure to keep weight in your heels, and shift your hips backwards to keep the back supported in the fold. Continue to bend until you feel a stretch in the back of your hamstrings. If you start to feel pain, do not continue to bend.
- Doorway Chest Stretch
When we spend days hunched over, looking at our computers, our phones, or just don’t have the straightest posture, it is mainly our chests that suffers. To stretch the chest, stand in a doorway and place your forearms on the doorframe on either side of you, as if you were going in for a hug, but instead found a doorway. Slowly lean forward. You should feel a stretch along the front of your chest. If you start to feel pain, do not continue to lean forward.
- Runners Lunge
Pain in the back low back is often linked to your hamstrings. When we spend a good amount of time sitting, our hamstrings and hip flexors are in need of some good stretching. Runners' Lunges stretch hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, and the low back. Stand with feet parallel and hips width apart, then take a big step back with your left foot, placing your hands on the ground, for balance, on opposite sides of your front foot. You may lower your back knee as well, for even more support. Lower your hips slowly, and feel the stretch in your left hip and leg. If you start to feel pain, stop lowering. Be sure to take this position on your right side as well.
- Bound Angle
The bound angle stretch is great for specifically targeting the hip flexors and glutes and inner thighs. For this stretch, sit on the ground, back straight, knees spread wide so that the souls of your feet may touch. It’s very ok if your knees are not able to stay on the ground. Lean forward, keeping your back straight, and extend your arms in front of you to assist in keeping a flat back. You should feel a stretch in your muscles, but if you feel pain, stop leaning forward.
Stretching is also a great way of getting to know your body and what it’s limits are. You should never stretch to the point of pain, but slight discomfort is key. The more you stretch, the more you will know your limits. Your mind and body will be sure to thank you for your hard work and dedication to stretching.