5 Stretches in 5 Minutes
Morning stretch routines don't have to be a yawn. Once you get into the habit of stretching first thing and notice its benefits, it really becomes a staple part of your morning - like brushing your teeth! If you're looking to add some mindful movement to the start of your day, start off quick & small. The 5 stretches below are a good place to start and carry with them myriad biological and psychological benefits.
How-to: Start in table-top position (on your hands and knees). Breathing in, drop your belly and lift your head up to the sky. Breathing out, arch the spine like a cat (hence the cat-cow name!)
The benefits: Improves blood circulation, relieves back pain, relieves any tension in the neck, improves focus and coordination.
2) Head nods & shoulder circles
How-to: Move your head to the left and right and up and down a couple of times, as if saying 'yes' and no'. Then move the shoulders in circular motions, clockwise and then anti-clockwise.
The benefits: Releases tension in the shoulders and neck, improves posture and increases spinal stability.
3) Downward Facing dog
How-to: Named after the stretch that dogs do, this involves placing your hands shoulder-width apart and spreading your fingers out wide. Then, press your hands into the mat, take an inhale and then slowly lift your knees up and straighten your legs as much as you can.
The benefits: It strengthens, lengthens, and sends energy to all of your muscles, as well as bringing fresh blood flow to the brain.
How-to: Plant your forearms out in front of you so that your elbows are in alignment with your shoulders and then, with as much of a neutral spine as possible, stretch your legs out behind you and hold for as long as you can. (You can always lower your knees if that feels better). Try to always keep your core engaged so that your spine is supported.
The benefits: Improves posture and strengthens the spine and abdominal muscles. It also heightens your metabolism, improves balance, and, as with any movement, releases those feel-good endorphins.
5) Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold
How-to: Step your feet wider than hip-width apart. Stand up tall, inhale, and then slowly fold over your legs. Try to place your hands flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. You can stay there for a bit or you can wrap your hands around one leg and then the other to get a deeper stretch. Eventually, you can grow this practice to carefully bring your head to the ground.
The benefits: Relieves tension in the neck, shoulder, and back, alleviates stress and anxiety, tones abdominal muscles and improves digestion.
(Please remember that you should always be mindful when practicing any stretches, especially if you have not done them before and especially if you have any injuries. If in doubt, speak to a medical professional before attempting anything new).