Fitness

Six Soothing Stretches

Last updated: Mar 24, 2015

 

Most seasoned exercisers know the importance of stretching every day. But even if you don't exercise regularly, stretching several times a week can help you improve and maintain your muscle strength and flexibility. 

Learn more about the importance of stretching
for flexibility, balance, and preventing falls
.

To help maintain and improve your flexibility, try these 6 soothing stretches at the start and/or end of each day:

  • Seated deep-breathing stretch
    • Start sitting up straight and comfortably on the floor or on the edge of a chair
    • Close your eyes
    • Try clearing your mind of all thoughts
    • Inhale through your nose, counting at a comfortable, even pace, saying to yourself as you breathe in,
      1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, 4 Mississippi
    • Hold your breath in and count to 4 as you did when breathing in
    • Exhale through your nose and count to 4 similarly as you breathe out
    • Hold your exhaled breath for 4 of the evenly paced counts
    • Repeat your breathing stretch cycle 10 times, focusing more deeply and completely
      on only your breathing with each new cycle
       
  • Seated torso and shoulder stretch
    • Intertwine your fingers together in your lap
    • Breathe in deeply, slowly, and evenly, counting as you did for the deep breathing stretch above
    • Raise your arms above your head, facing your palms toward the ceiling
    • Keep your arms aligned with your ears
    • Look straight in front of you, keeping your head straight, your neck relaxed, and your gaze at eye level
    • Relax your shoulders
    • Relax your back muscles
    • Hold the posture for 5 full breaths, counting at a comfortable and even pace
      just as you did for the deep breathing stretch
    • Release your breath in the same paced, 4 counts, while releasing your arms to rest by your sides
    • Gently roll your shoulders forward and backward 5 times
    • Repeat the cycle of stretches 5 times
       
  • Standing yoga eagle-arms shoulder stretch
    • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart or sit comfortably upright 
    • Bring your arms up in front of you, crossing your arms at the elbows, right arm under the left arm
    • Bend your elbows
    • Slowly wrap your hands around until you touch your palms together
    • Drop your elbows slightly and let your fingers point out in front of you
    • Keep your arms in line with your nose and the center of your body
    • Feel the stretch through the upper part of your back and between your shoulder blades
    • Hold the stretch for 6 to 8 comfortably paced breaths, while feeling your muscles relax into the stretch
    • Then lift the elbows slightly so that your fingers are in front of your nose for a deeper stretch
    • Feel the stretch down between the shoulder blades toward the middle part of your back
    • Repeat this stretch with the left arm under the right arm

      Click here to see a demonstration of this stretch.
  • Chest-opening stretch
    • Stand in a relaxed position with your feet hip-distance apart
    • Reach both arms behind you
    • Clasp your hands together in a fist behind you at your lower back
    • Keep your gaze in front of you
    • Lift your clasped hands slowly and gently as far as you can without discomfort,
      pulling your shoulder blades together
    • Repeat this stretch several times
       
  • Hanging stretch
    • Stand in a relaxed position with your feet hip-distance apart
    • Bend your knees slightly
    • Bend over slowly at the waist and let your head, back, neck, and torso hang into the stretch
    • With your head hanging down, grasp your elbows with your hands
    • Breathe deeply at a comfortable pace 3 to 5 times
    • Stand up straight slowly
    • Repeat the stretch several or more times
    • To relax your neck, nod your head gently yes and no while you are bent over and your head is hanging
       
  • Iliotibial (IT) band hip and buttock stretch
    • Lie comfortably on the floor
    • Bend your left leg, keeping your left foot flat on the floor
    • Place your right ankle on top of your left knee
    • Grasp your left thigh with your hands and pull it gently toward you
    • Keep both feet flexed and breathe deeply, feeling the stretch in your right hip and buttock 
    • Repeat the stretch on the opposite side, bending your right leg and placing the left ankle over the right knee
    • Repeat the stretch cycle several times

 

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