Here are some common lines people use - “I should really stretch every day” or “I am going to do 10 minutes of stretching when I wake up each day, starting tomorrow” or “My body is so sore and tight but I don't know what stretches to do” or “I don’t have time to stretch”. Can you relate? Do you say these things? It’s ok if you do! Thats why I am here to empower you to find the time, to show you how easy it can be, to show you what stretches you can do.
You don't have to attend a 60 minute yin yoga class to get a good stretch (although its honestly an amazing practice for your body), it can be beneficial to spend even 5-10 minutes a day just doing some basic stretches. You know why? Because anything is always better than nothing when it comes to looking after your body. Unless nothing is exactly what you need in which case, listen to that.
If you find stretching boring then find a way to make it more interesting. Stretch while listening to your favourite podcast, stretch while reading, stretch while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or while watching your favourite show. Although I am a huge advocate of totally switching off, being mindful and present with stretching, I get that its not ideal for some. My main focus is to get you moving and stretching so that you can get the most out of your body, day in, day out.
Here are just a few of my favourite stretches that you can do anywhere, anytime. Ok maybe not ANYWHERE - be a bit weird if you were in line at your local coffee shop and busted out a down dog. But in saying that, you do you! Try and commit to doing 1-2 minutes per side of these stretches to get the full benefit of them.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG
This pose doesn't usually get the praise it deserves as its commonly known as a resting pose or transition pose in a flow but our old friend downward facing dog has so many benefits and is an important foundation of the yoga practice. This pose is the ultimate all over body pose, helping to strengthen, lengthen and open up hands and wrists, back and shoulder girdle, lower back and calf muscles, core and hamstrings as well as promotes digestion, increases energy, helps circulation of fresh blood and can even relieve back pain. Did you even do yoga if you didn't do downward facing dog?
Start in a tabletop position with hands shoulder width apart and knees and feet in line with hips, walk your hands another hand width forwards. Tuck your toes and inhale, on your exhale, gently lift the knees, pressing your tailbone up towards the sky. You can start with bent knees to get that position right and then as you feel ready, start to straighten your legs, aiming to lift up through the knee caps while aiming to get your heels as close to the floor as possible. Spread your fingers nice and wipe and grip into your mat, firm through your outer arms and allow your arms to roll inwards as if you were trying to hide your armpits from someone next to you, allow your shoulder blades to widen, pressing the floor away from you. Keep your head between your arms, gazing back towards the tops of your thighs or navel.
This is another good one for back pain and will also stretch out the hips, thighs and ankles while you’re at it. Most people don’t really think about the importance of having mobile wrists and ankles but these sometimes neglected areas are what can hugely impact the way our bodies allow us to move, so downward dog for the wrists and childs pose for the ankles are a great start. Childs pose is also super relaxing so if you’re feeling a bit stressed or overwhelmed, try taking a few deep breaths, expanding the back body in this pose.
There are a few variations of this pose where you can either keep your knees together or bring them apart and have your arms stretched out in front, down by your sides reaching back towards the ankles or making a pillow for your forehead with your hands. I like to start kneeling on the floor with big toes touching and then I take my knees out wide to get more of a hip stretch and for people who are more flexible this will be good for you too. Lay your body down between your legs and rest your forehead down on either your hands or your mat. If you are stretching your arms out infant, try and remain active and think about widening your shoulder blades like you would in down dog.
HAPPY BABY POSE
Well the name says it all really. If you find yourself reminiscing to your younger years, before bills and responsibilities and want to feel those happy feels again then take your self on a little trip down memory lane and get yourself into a happy baby pose. Jokes aside, this pose is great for stretching through the inner groin area, can also alleviate back pain and can also be a good one for the hamstrings.
Lie on your back and hug your knees in to your chest. If possible, grab on to either the ouster edges of your feet keeping your elbows inside your knees, or use peace grip fingers around your big toes. If this is not possible the you can use a strap or a small towel on either side to help you.
I do love pigeon pose. I am someone who constantly has to work at keeping my hips stretched and open otherwise they get super tight and that effects everything else in my body. As painful as pigeon can be, it is super beneficial and perfect for tight hips as it stretches out the hip rotators and hip flexors which in english is your butt, hips and front of your thighs. Don't even get me started on the benefits of hip openers cos we will be here all day. Just do yourself a favour and get this bird pose into your life.
I like to get into my pigeon via a downward dog. Inhale your right leg back and up then exhale bringing your knee forwards and place it down behind the right wrist and bring your foot as close to your left wrist as possible. You may find that difficult so just bring your foot up as high as you can, within your capabilities. Your left leg is going to be straight out behind you, feet face down and hips square. Allow some deep breaths to help your hips settle a little and then when you feel comfortable you can begin to forward fold. If you feel most comfortable resting up on your hands then listen to your body as this can be a very deep stretch for some.
CAT & COW
These poses are my favourite ways to warm up my spine. Its super gentle and is also a great way to connect your breath with movement. Ladies, if you have menstrual cramps - this ones for you.
Get into a table top position with hands shoulder width apart and stacked directly under the shoulders, same with the knees (hip width apart and directly under the hips). Start in a neutral spine. On your inhale, begin to open up through your chest, lift your hips and draw your belly down towards the floor creating a nice arch in the spine, gazing up toward the ceiling. On your exhale, tuck your hips under, draw the belly in and round out through the upper spine gazing down towards your navel.
Now, if I have inspired you to get stretching, please let me know how you go with implementing these into your day and how they are making you feel in the comments below.