Tired of feeling out of shape, constantly tired and living with pain…the solution is simple, start moving!!!
I have found, as I get older, and ‘achier,’ I need to start my day with a few stretches, even before I get out of bed. I remember seeing my parents from time to time, in our living room, doing daily stretches and thinking them a bit strange, but I’m afraid I’ve joined their ‘stretching club.’
Day after day I see how daily stretching helps me feel better – and certainly move better. It’s easy, once you start stretching on a daily basis, to get totally addicted with this routine. Honestly, I can’t talk enough about the wonderful benefits of practicing simple stretches every morning. It’s addictive, because as soon as you begin stretching and you experience a totally different body, free of aches and pains, moving and performing better at your daily tasks, you will feel the need to stretch everyday.
So, although all of our bodies are different, here are a few stretches that I recommend for every-body, every day.
1. Upward Stretch - It’s a little cliché, but I always greet the morning by raising my arms — it’s a great way to get the blood flowing and wake up the body. Lace your fingers together and raise your hands above your head, palms facing upward. Elongate your spine and feel the stretch in your ribcage and arms. Hold for a count of ten and then incorporate a sitting side stretch into the sequence to target your torso. As I wrote about in an earlier blog, I experience some back pain from time to time, and this really helps me to nip that in the bud before it can start-up each day.
2. Neck and Shoulder Stretch - I love doing neck and shoulder stretches in the morning as a way to ease tension that can happen while sleeping. To stretch the muscles on the right side of your neck, turn your left ear over to your left shoulder and hold for twenty seconds. Repeat on the other side to stretch out your left side. Relax for a moment and then roll your shoulders to the back, and then to the front. Then lift them right up to your ears, tensing the muscles, and allow them to drop completely. Repeat this entire sequence three times.
3. Spinal Twist - A spinal twist is a great way to relieve stress in your lower back. Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds on each side and don’t be alarmed if you hear some “cracks” in your spine when you twist it. Don’t force anything here, just feel your spinal column wringing itself out after a good night’s sleep.
4. Lying Side Quad Stretch - Most people are used to stretching their quads while standing up, but it’s also something you can do while lying down. To really maximize your quad stretch, squeeze your glute-max while engaged in the stretch.
5. Hamstring Stretch – Lord knows ( and Carla knows ) this is a biggie for me: The Hamstring is actually three muscles located behind the thighs. It starts under the buttocks and ends behind the knee-joint. If you stretch this muscle correctly, you will immediately feel better. The lack of flexibility behind the thigh affects your lower back, your posture and your body alignment.
Standing, bring one leg on top of a chair, try to keep your leg as straight as possible and your foot relaxed. Keep your other leg straight and a little bit turned out. Facing your leg, inhale and begin to bend over from the hips, as you keep your back totally straight. Avoid rounding your spine. Count to 10 as you hold the stretch, breathe normally, and release the stretch as you exhale. Repeat five to ten times on each side.
6. Lower Back/Hamstring – with all of the sitting we do on a daily basis, this is a necessity for most of us. Sit on the floor with your legs straight and together, feet flexed ( toes pointing up ) and hold both arms straight out in front of you at shoulder level. Inhale and bend over from your hips, reaching your arms forward. Hold the stretch and count to 10. Exhale and release the stretch. Repeat five to ten times.
Not so hard, right? I bet you feel more relaxed and supple just after reading this….
So, give it a try – for thirty days – and see what a difference it makes for you. You’ll feel your body move more easily right off the bat, each and every day. With your morning stretches and your two or three sessions of Pilates each week, you’ll be able to tackle everything that comes your way – even that booty barre class!
But don’t worry…if you miss the stretching one morning, just tell your instructor at Studio Be – they’ll work some therapeutic stretching moves into your normal Pilates work-out - they’re pretty adaptable that way!
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11877 B Grand Commons Road, Fairfax, VA 22030 | Phone: 703-222-0122