As you work to improve your health in 2021, consider adding stretching to your day to improve your body and your mind. Stretching helps keep your muscles long, lean and healthy, when practiced regularly. Activities like sitting, tighten muscles including hamstrings, hips, and chest. Stretching can help undo the tightening impact of too much sitting. Try at least 5 minutes of stretching every night before you go to bed.

Stretching will:

  • Relieve muscle tension built up throughout the day
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood
  • Improve your sleep quality and duration
  • Reduce body pain
  • Increase your mobility and flexibility
  • Improve muscle health and performance for workouts and ADL
  • Reduce your risk of injury
  • Promote weight loss
  • Improve circulation

Muscles are short and tight in the morning, so stretching then can cause injury or at least be less effective. Stretching later in the day, or before bed, is more effective, as muscles are warmer and more pliable and able to stretch.

Try this 5-minute, whole body, stretching routine before you go to bed at night, before a nap, after a workout, or anytime you need a relaxing activity. Not only will you benefit your body, but your brain will be treated to feel good chemicals that can improve your mood and leave you better able to sleep or continue on with your day. Consider listening to some relaxing music or white noise to further enhance your stretch. Try closing your eyes as you breathe, envisioning the breath traveling to the muscles being stretched.

Take into consideration your personal health conditions, physical restrictions, or injuries when attempting these stretches. You can modify all positions to work for your body. Stretching should feel good and relaxing and should not cause pain. If you feel pain, release the stretch. There are many alternative stretches for every muscle group.

For this stretch session, we will take 3 deep breathes in each stretch. Feel free to hold stretches longer, 5 to 10 breaths, if it feels good and time permits. You will begin in a seated position, move to all fours (quadruped), next to supine on the floor, and finally end with your legs up the wall. You may a blanket and pillows to help elevate your seat.

Progress of stretching routine:

Seated stretches: (sit cross legged, sit on a blanket if your hips are tight)

  • Side stretch- back and obliques
  • Twist for mid and upper back
  • Chest
  • Neck

All fours (quadruped):

  • Low lunge psoas stretch
  • Calf stretch from quadruped
  • Upper back twist to thread the needle
  • Childs pose for back and hips

Supine

  • Easy hamstring
  • Figure 4 for hip
  • Quadricep
  • Butterfly for inner thighs
  • Knee to chest for low back and hip
  • Spinal twist for glute and mid-back
  • Legs up the wall for hamstrings and to relax

A regular stretching practice can help undo years of tight muscles. Hold stretches for up to 10 breaths, several times a day, to make an impact on tight chest muscles for example. Continue to add stretches for your body parts that need more flexibility.

Add stretching to your routine in 2021 to increase the health of not only your body, but also your mind.

by Christy Coughlin

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