The benefits of working out, eating healthy and living an active lifestyle are well known, but do you know how important stretching can be to your overall health? Stretching routines, like the flows found in yoga, have enormous health benefits; including increased flexibility, improved range of motion, enhanced circulation and blood flow, better coordination and posture, and increased energy levels.Sounds pretty great, right?
Check out these easy steps to get started on a daily stretching routine!
Step 1: Warm Up
A common mistake people make is “static stretching” or jumping right into stretching without warming up. Doing this causes strain on your muscles as you try to stretch while they are cold. Instead try “dynamic stretching” which involves first warming up your muscles with 5-10 minutes of activity before working through stretches.
A few of our favorite warm ups include: light to medium-level walking or jogging, stationary biking, and/or rowing for cardio (5-10 min). You can also add in jumping jacks, squats, forward leg swings and arm circles to get a full body warm up (10-15x of each).
Now that you’re warm, let’s get into the stretches!
Step 2: Lower body: legs, glutes, hips, etc.
- Legs: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, reach side to side then slowly reach both arms to towards your feet. Hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat on the other side
- Thighs: While standing bend one leg backwards and grab your foot with your hand. This will stretch the front of your thighs. Hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Hamstrings: Raise your leg 90 degrees (resting it on a railing or a piece of furniture) and slowly stretch your arms towards your foot. Keep inching your hands farther towards your feet and hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Glutes/Hips: Try the “figure 4” yoga stretch. While standing cross one leg onto the other resting the ankle of the crossed leg on top of the standing knee. For a deeper stretch slowly bend the standing leg in a deep seated position. Hold 30-45 seconds. Repeat on other side
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Step 3: Upper body: arms, shoulders, wrists, etc.
- Arms: With your arms raised above your head, bend one of them behind your head. With the other hand grab your elbow and slowly pull it towards the other arm. This stretch will warm up your triceps and back muscles. Repeat on the other side. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side.
- Shoulders: Cross one of your arms across your chest, wrap your other arm underneath and slowly pull towards your bicep towards you. This stretch will open up your shoulder blades. It also helps get rid of shoulder tension, something a lot of us have from working at a computer all day. Hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat on other side.
- Wrists: We often forget to stretch things like our wrists until they start hurting. Get ahead of the curve by adding wrist stretches to your daily routine. Clasp your hands together and relax your arms. Slowly start moving your clasped hands in a circle going forward and backwards. Then release your grip and roll your wrists separately. Lastly flip your hand so that your fingers are facing the ground, slowly push the heel of your hand against the ground. Stretch your wrists for a total of 30-45 seconds.
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Step 4: Meditation and mindfulness
Lastly, many of the benefits of stretching and yoga come from taking time during the day to focus on meditation and mindfulness. As you incorporate stretching into your daily routine, consider taking the time to also slow your mind and focus inwardly. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditating for just a few minutes a day can reduce stress, anxiety, and negative emotions. It’s also proven to increase imagination and creativity.
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