Are you a desk jockey? Or a weekend warrior? A diligent 60 minutes a day cardio queen? A 4 times a week Crossfit crazy? Whatever you are and wherever your pain is, these next 10 stretches will change your life. Yes, CHANGE YOUR LIFE. This stretching routine will get into the nooks, crannies and crevasses you thought only a massage therapist could reach. And while getting a massage every day would be nice, let’s get realistic and take charge of our own muscles and their health on a daily basis.
Here is the new stretching routine that will change your life in 20 minutes. Follow it, love it, and remember to breathe.
Doorway Pec Stretch
3-Way Hip Flexor (Elevated)
Revolved Lateral Angle Pose
Wide Legged Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener
Figure 4 Stretch/Reclining Pigeon
Reclining Hamstring Stretch/ Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
Description: Child’s Pose is so safe that physical therapists can do it with a patient whom had back surgery. Think of Child’s Pose as your spine’s safe place and your relief from daily back pain, desk tension, and stress.
Targeted muscles: spinal muscles, quadriceps, anterior tibialis (shin), ankle joints, pectorals/ shoulder girdle
Your Routine: Start with 10-20 breaths in Child’s Pose to gently coax your muscles open for the routine.
Description: Cat/ Cow is a Yoga & Pilates staple for a reason: it warms up your entire spine, including your chest and shoulders, while respecting the limits of your spine’s mobility. Another incredibly safe stretch, Cat/Cow is an excellent tension tamer and a beginner’s guide to breathing while stretching.
Targeted muscles: spinal muscles, shoulder girdle
Your Routine: 10 breaths in Cat/ Cow. Inhale as you lower your belly towards the floor, exhale as you make yourself arch like a Halloween cat.
Description: Who knew a doorway could change your life? This easy pectoral and shoulder stretch can be done at home or work and easily can take pressure off of tight shoulders, tight chest muscles, and neck pain. Remember to keep your jaw soft as well!
Targeted muscles: pectoral muscles (major and minor), shoulder girdle, obliques, thoracic spine
Your Routine: 3 repetitions for 5-10 breaths each. The higher you raise your arms on the doorway, the harder this stretch is on the shoulders. Be careful!
Description: A runner’s dream, a desk jockey’s fix… this stretch is good for all of us. With the deep muscles of the hip being able to pull our lower back and pelvic girdles out of place, stretching the hip flexors is key for every man and woman.
Targeted muscles: ilio psoas (also known as psoas), quadriceps, low back, tensor fascia lata (known as TFL to some), IT band
Your Routine: With one leg up on a table or couch, lean straight forward into a lunge for 5 breaths. Relax for a moment. Shift hips to comfort to one side, lean into lunge again for 5 breaths. Relax for a moment. Shift hips to comfort to other side, lean into lunge again for 5 breaths. Switch sides. Repeat 1-3 times on each side.
Description: The IT band miracle, this stretch also gets into one’s piriformis (the deepest glute muscle) when done correctly. This is intense and should never be done without a gentle warm up or a few stretches beforehand.
Targeted muscles: ilio psoas (also known as psoas), quadriceps, low back, tensor fascia lata (known as TFL to some), IT band, piriformis, outer glutes
Your Routine: Spend 10 breaths on each side in the Revolving Lunge. Really focus on the twist, pulling the glute of the bend leg backwards and lengthening your IT band and your lower back. (See photo provided)
Description: A lower back wonder, this is many’s favorite stretch for getting into those tight back muscles that only a massage can get to. When you don’t have time for a massage, the extended triangle is your new go-to stretch for lengthening the spine, opening the QL (the muscle between the 12th rib and pelvis), and feeling like your opening your whole body up.
Targeted muscles: hamstrings, lower back including quadratus lumborum (known as QL), intercostals (rib muscles), obliques, calves, lats
Your Routine: Spend 10 breaths on each side, focusing on feeling like you were between 2 panes of glass (open chest, body in alignment) and feeling your spine grow long as your arm comfortably reaches without shoulder tension.
Description: The go-to stretch that you’ve probably done in some capacity on your own, the Wide Legged Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener gets into every nook and cranny. Remember to breathe deeply and to roll up slowly.
Targeted muscles: hamstrings, lower back/ pelvic girdle, piriformis, pectorals, shoulder girdle, cervical muscles
Your Routine: Spend 10 breaths in this pose. Repeat 1-3 times. Breathe deeply as your head is below your heart (watch out for light-headedness).
Description: Glutes and lower back pain sigh a huge relief with the Figure 4 stretch. This is especially good for runners and those with IT band issues.
Targeted muscles: piriformis, all 3 layers of glute muscles, lower back
Your Routine: Spend 5-10 breaths on each side. Repeat if you’d like.
Description: You, yes YOU, we ALL need to stretch out hamstrings. No matter what your lifestyle, the hamstring stretch helps relieve lower back pain and hip tension that comes from tight hamstrings which can pull the pelvis and lower back out of place. Bend your knees if you need to so that you can get the best stretch possible.
Targeted muscles: hamstrings, calves, lower back
Your Routine: Spend 5-10 breaths on each side. Repeat if you like. The knee may have to be bent for you to feel the stretch in the belly of the hamstring (not the knee!).
Description: The favorite twist of many yogis/yoginis, this just feels plain old good on the lower back, hips and outer body lines. Yogis believe it has digestive benefits as well… oh heck, why not? Let’s just call it the miracle stretch!
Targeted muscles: lower back, tensor fascia lata (TFL), IT band, quadriceps
Your Routine: 10 long breaths on each side with eyes closed.
There! Don’t you feel like an entirely different person?!? It’s that easy.
Try this routine 3x per week or more often if you suffer from chronically sore muscles or other muscular pain. Remember that there is GOOD stretchy pain (the hurts so good kind) and BAD stretchy pain (the kind that makes you go OUCH). We only want the good and we want to avoid the bad. Skip any stretches that evoke a strong pain as a precaution.
As always, remember to consult your physician/ physical therapist/ chiropractor if you are being treated for an injury before beginning this program.