Nothing like a good stretch to loosen up the stress load of any day. Below you will find a lengthy list, pun intended, of stretches to try from foot to head.
Use a golf ball or tennis ball to roll under the sole of each foot. Applying appropriate pressure helps to stimulate the muscles in the foot and release body tension. Be forewarned, this nifty trick can become addicting.
Calves & Hamstrings
The classic seated forward bend with legs straight out in front is a wonderful calf stretch and specifically targets the back leg muscles.
To benefit the calf muscles specifically the knees can be slightly bent as you grab onto the tops of the feet, bottom of the toes resting in the palms of your hands. Push out through the heel and breath through the deep calf stretch. Hold for a few breaths.
Now straighten the legs and point the toes away from your body as you fold to your deepest position. This will create a strong sensation on the tops of the shins and in the hamstrings. Hold for a few breaths and then release.
- Start in kneeling position. Begin to lean backwards onto your elbows and finally lie your back onto the ground.
- Breathe through the intense quad stretch.
- Repeat on the left side.
- If you have sensitive knees, avoid this stretch all together and work on strengthening the leg muscles around the knee instead.
One of the best hip opening exercises would be the ‘Bound Angle Yoga Pose’ otherwise known as seated butterfly.
* From a seated position bring the soles of your feet together and point your knees out to the sides. The closer your feet are to your body the greater the hip stretch. * To intensify this move bring the torso forward, aiming the mid belly to touch your feet. If this does not happen, don’t worry. The majority of people have super tight hip muscles, you’re not alone.
Upper and Lower Back
A wonderful stretch for the entire spine is called ‘Rabbit Pose’. * From ‘Childs Position’ grab your heels with your hands and lift your hips to the sky as you roll onto the top of your head. * Deepen this stretch by releasing the shoulders down the back of your spine. * Propel your breath from the top of the head to the bottom of the lower back. * Hold for a few breaths and release back into childs pose.
You may need a yoga belt, or long towel to assist with this abdominal stretch. * Lie on the ground with your belly on the floor. Bend your knees and bring the feet closer to your head and loop your towel or yoga belt around the tops of the foot. * Hold onto the ends of the towel/belt, lower the shoulders away from the ears, and push the feet away from the body. This motion will lift and lengthen your core muscles. * Be cautious and discontinue this move if you find any discomfort in the lower back. * After releasing this position move into childs pose for a few more breaths.
Threading the Needle Yoga Pose is one of the best ways to release tension in the shoulders. See this wonderful video for a detailed instruction on how to master this magnificent pose and loosen up unwanted shoulder stress.
- From standing position hold a belt in front slightly larger than shoulder width apart.
- Begin to raise the belt above the head and guide it behind as the chest opens with the arms behind you. This motion is slow and controlled to prevent injury and to allow the muscles of the chest to release tension without adding stress.
- Repeat this motion to the front and back of the body several times while continuing steady and deep breathing.
- From any seated or standing position lower the chin towards the chest and interlace the fingers behind the top of the head.
- Let the elbows move towards each other as the weight of the arms gently opens the back of the neck.
- The key to this stretch is to avoid pulling the neck with the arms.
- Stay in this position for a few breaths and release.
- Gently look from left to right side before trying again.
Although it may seem difficult to stretch the brain, a headstand surely does the trick. Head stands are a great way to engage all muscles and promote clarity of thoughts.
- Find a nice open wall, grab a pillow or yoga mat for support and get ready to kick your legs up. Before inverting make sure to be a few inches away from the wall to prevent your feet from bouncing your body right back to the floor.
- Start in childs pose with fingers interlaced behind your head, elbows and upper arms strong and pressing onto the floor.
- Lift your hips towards the sky and kick one leg up towards the wall, the other leg shall quickly follow. Once inverted continue deep breaths and concentrate on lengthening the entire spine upwards and push out through your heels.
- Slowly lower your legs back to the floor and pause in childs pose for a few more breaths. Enjoy the sensation in the head as the blood releases back to the rest of your body. And to think some people thought it impossible to literally stretch the mind!