At the end of the day, especially in these unprecedented times, burnout and feelings of anxiety can heighten. Our bodies hold on to energy—the good, the bad, the unknown, the tightness, the stress… all of it. Whether we are an avid yogi or prone to weight lifting or a combo of both, stretching with intention can bring exponential benefits to our physical and mental well-being.
The following stretches work great immediately after a workout or right before bedtime to help calm the body.
You may roll out your yoga mat, or simply find a comfy patch of carpet, to take these stretches. Start by taking three deep breathes in through your nose and then out the mouth. Utilizing the breath while stretching will help lengthen muscles, release tightness, and relax the mind. While the following poses are restorative and can be safely taken, please consult a physician if you have any outstanding medical conditions beforehand.
Intended to help with balance and relieve lower back pain as well as increase overall flexibility within the back, flowing in and out of Cat and Cow postures also helps you feel mentally grounded and at ease.
Come to all fours. Align wrists under your shoulders and bend knees under your hips. Be sure to keep the tops of your feet facing down. Elbows are turned slightly in and your palms are engaged into the earth. Feel the strength of your arms, and draw your breath up from the earth into your shoulders. Let out a deep breath. On your inhale scoop your chest and heart forward into the Cow position. On your exhale release into Cat as you arch your back and draw your navel into your spine. Repeat a few rounds to help release tightness in your lower back.
After taking Cat/Cow, stay in a tabletop position and gently circle hips in one direction and then slowly shift and circle hips in the opposite direction.
This forward bend is a great restorative pose often taken at the end of a yoga practice. It stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles, as well as alleviates back pain. This pose also releases tension in the back, shoulders and chest. Child’s pose also flexes internal organs.
Come to your hands and knees on your mat. Your knees can touch or go as wide as your mat, drawing your sit bones down towards your heels. Allow your belly to rest between your thighs or on top of thighs deepening on position of your knees. Draw your forehead to the floor, you may modify by placing a block between the earth and forehead.
Begin with the elbows bent and palms facing down. On an inhale gently stretching the arms long and breath into the very tips of the fingers. Keep your neck in a neutral position, in line with the spine.
Legs Up The Wall
Suffering from insomnia? Before you pop that sleeping pill, try this supported stretch. Not only does taking this pose help provide a better night’s sleep and calm the nervous system, it increases blood flow to the core of the body and provides a stretch to the hamstrings at the back of your thighs, your lower back, and torso.
Find a free wall. Start by sitting down, facing the side of the wall, playing your hip bone as close as possible or touching the wall. Then lay on your back and scooch your butt as close to the wall as possible, and positioning your legs vertically up the surface to form an L-shape with your torso. Try staying with legs up the wall from 2-5 mins. You can always modify by padding the back of the head with a folded blanket or placing a folded towel under the lower back.
Jaime Walsh is an Arizona native who first started teaching at Mountainside Fitness in 2014. She is also completing her M.A. in English and Creative Writing. Trained in Yoga Nidra, meditation, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga, she has partnered with many Valley staples such as the Girl Scouts of Arizona, Lululemon, and Apple to bring a blend of yoga + writing workshops as well as mother- daughter yoga retreats to her students. When not on the mat, Jaime loves SUP Yoga, reading short stories, hiking alongside her mountain-biking husband and her blended family of five spirited kiddos ages 11 years old to 6 months.