You know that feeling you complete a deep, full-body stretching routine? The one where you feel a bit lighter, less foggy, and even have more energy? Maybe you feel this way after moving and bending a bit the morning after a restful night’s sleep or after a yoga class?
Regularly moving and stretching can play a considerable role in helping your body and brain work optimally and make a massive difference in how you feel throughout the day. A solid, consistent stretching routine can increase your range of motion and coordination, decrease the risk of injury, and even improve your mental well-being. In addition, mindfully moving your body while focusing on your breath can be a welcomed recharge for anyone who is simply feeling tired or spent.
But even with all the benefits stretching provides, many people still jet skip a post-workout stretch after exercising, which can lead to injury, fatigue, pain, and tightness.
Here’s a closer look at the numerous benefits of full-body stretching, why you should do it, and how to build a quick and efficient full-body stretching routine.
Mental and physical benefits of a stretching routine
An easy midday stretch makes for a feel-good physical reset, especially for our necks, shoulders, back, and hips, which typically end up feeling tight or sore after sitting for hours. But stretching provides mental benefits too—from increasing concentration to easing stress an anxiety. Here are other ways a stretching routine positively impacts your body and mind:
• Decreases risk of joint and muscle injuries
• Improves circulation and blood vessel function
• Increases range of motion
• Reduces pain caused by poor posture
• Promotes feelings of relaxation
• Releases hormones for mood changes
• Focuses your awareness to the present
Types of stretches
As you develop your full-body stretching routine, it’s essential to determine the types of stretches you can do and when to do them.
• Dynamic stretching is a way to get your muscles warmed up for an activity or exercise. It involves actively moving a joint or muscle through its full range of motion, such as swinging your legs, rolling your ankles, or doing arm circles.
• Static stretching involves holding a stretch in place for at least 15 seconds or longer without moving, such as in a seated forward fold. This helps your muscles loosen up before or after exercise.
When should you stretch?
Warmed-up muscles tend to perform better, so it’s crucial to include consistent dynamic and static stretching in your pre-workout routine to prepare your body for activity.
Flowing through some static stretching after your workout may help reduce muscle soreness caused by strenuous exercise. Be sure to stretch all parts of your body, with an emphasis on the muscles you used during your workout.
After sitting and before bed
Your parasympathetic nervous system plays a role in your body’s rest and digest function. As a result, many people find stretching before bed can help you relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
Stretching after a long period of inactivity can help increase blood flow to your muscles and reduce stiffness. This is why it feels good—and is beneficial—to stretch after waking up or after sitting for an extended period.
A 15-minute full-body stretching routine
Now that we know why you should stretch, let’s build a quick and easy stretching routine that can easily be squeezed into your day. Perform this series of stretches at least once a day to improve your mobility, flexibility, and mental well-being.
Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart. Soften your knees and slowly fold forward toward your toes. Allow your upper body to hang loosely. Slowly sway side-to-side to release any tension in your lower back. Hold for 15–30 seconds before releasing to standing. Repeat if desired.
Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lift your tailbone and press your hips up and back, drawing them toward the ceiling. Pedal out each leg before slowly straightening them, and press your heels gently toward the floor. Hold for 15–30 seconds and release back to your knees. Repeat if desired.
Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Take a deep inhale, then on the exhale, move into Cat Pose—round your spine, dropping the crown of your head toward the floor, lifting your belly toward the ceiling. On the next inhale, lift your head and chest toward the ceiling, arching your lower back into Cow Pose. Repeat this movement 5 times.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, then take a big step with your left or right foot in front of you. Bend into your front leg and lower until you can rest your back knee on the mat. Gently move your hips slightly forward to feel a stretch in the front of your hip on your back leg. Hold for 15–30 seconds before switching sides. Repeat if desired.
Photo: SrdjanPav / Getty Images
From Downward-Facing Dog, extend the right leg high behind you. Bring your leg through your arms toward your hands, and place your right knee on the floor just behind and slightly to the left of your right wrist, with your shin on a diagonal and your heel pointing toward your left frontal hipbone.Extend your opposite leg long behind you and rest the top of your foot on the mat. Keep your right foot flexed and slowly lean forward over your bent leg. Hold for 15–30 seconds. Switch sides.
Eye of the Needle
Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Reach your right arm toward the sky and then “thread” it underneath your body and across your body to your left side. Bend your left elbow as you gently lean into your right side, feeling a strong stretch in the back of your right shoulder. To take it deeper, drop the left arm behind your back to create a stretch in the front of your left shoulder. Hold for 15–30 seconds. Switch sides.
Photo: David McMillan
Take a kneeling position on your mat with your knees hip-distance apart. Reach our arms behind you and place them on your tailbone or behind you on your ankles. Slowly lean back, keeping your core engaged as you push your hips forward while lifting your chest high and arching your back. Deepen the stretch by dropping your head back and opening up your chest. Hold for 15–30 seconds before gently releasing to kneeling. Repeat if desired.
Take a kneeling position on your mat with your knees hip-distance apart and your toes touching behind you. Separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Exhale, and send your hips back while dropping your torso over your thighs. Reach your arms forward and press your fingers gently into the mat. Lengthen your spine and neck by stretching your upper body forward while pressing into your lower body to deepen the stretch. Rest your forehead on the mat. Hold for 15–30 seconds. Repeat if desired.
Original article from Yoga Journal.