Essential Stretches

Here are some movements I like to call “essential stretches,” because you can do them every day to get the day started right. You can also use them before a workout or when you take a break from hard work and want a limbering/pain relieving movement before you go back to it. You can do these formally as part of your workout or throughout the day to bring a refreshed feeling. One of my favorites for lower back pain is laying on the floor with one leg bent at the knee. Wrap a towel around the underside of the foot on the outstretched leg and slowly pull it straight up. Then do the other side. It feels so great and relieves pain almost instantly.

Start the day stretching.

If you have a cat, watch it when it first awakens or gets up after a rest. (Which occurs several times during the day.) It makes a deep stretching motion, raising its bottom and stretching its back. You should do the same each morning. Side lunges with the arm raised on the side you lunge toward, stretching until it feels good and then doing the other side can get you a little more limber for the day. One of the children’s programs I watched growing up featured a song called “Bend and Stretch.” The second line of the song said, “reach for the sky.” While trying to touch your toes is good, reaching as high as you can is just as good and easier.

Stretch your hamstrings, hip flexors and quads with this exercise.

Sit on the floor in kneeling position with legs bent at the knee and shins on the ground. Lift one leg in front of you bent at the knee to create a 90 degree angle and foot flat on the floor right under the knee. The other side should still be in the original position. Put both hands on top of the knee in front of you and lean into a stretch, trunk upright. Hold and lean back.

Stretch your hamstrings like a runner.

Sit with both legs extended in front of you. Bend one leg, putting your foot on the side of the other leg’s knee. You’ll have a triangle or number 4 formed with your legs. Bend at the hips, slowly moving forward toward the foot of the outstretched leg. You’ll feel it pull, then hold ten to twenty seconds. Straighten up and do it again. Do the other side. Repeat one more time. Each time you’ll notice you’ll lean further forward.

– Stretch your triceps by bending arm at the elbow, as though you’re trying to scratch your back. Grab the elbow with your other hand and pull make it stretch even further.

– Pull your arms behind you and clasp your hands. First lift them as high as possible, then go back to starting position and push out your chest, stretching as far as possible.

– Take a tip from yoga and do a downward dog. Start in kneeling position, hands shoulder-width apart, raise your bottom in the air and straighten your legs. Straighten your spine as you lower your head. Keep your heels on the ground, lowering them as far as you can, stretching your calves.

– Stand with arms extended. Twist your body, rotating your arms to the left and then to the right in propeller fashion. You can do this one seated as well.

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