If you have problems loosening up, follow these three easy steps: Relax, stretch and breath. The purpose of stretching is too loosen your muscles by increasing mobility and improve blood circulation. Stretching will warm up your body by increasing blood flow to muscles and joints which will lengthen and strengthen your muscles. For the best results, you want to stretch every single day, if even only for 15 minutes. Invest in a yoga mat for a little extra padding on the floor.
It’s better to fit in fewer stretches and take your time holding each stretch than quickly rushing through a lot of stretches. You want to take enough time to focus on the stretch and go as far as you can without pulling too hard. No bouncing. Bouncing can lead to torn muscles by over-stretching and that is the opposite outcome you want to achieve. Relax, breath, reach as far as you can without pain, and hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds. As you are holding the stretch, you may find that as you are about to release, you can actually reach a little further.
Give Yourself the Time
Stretching is so important for your health, that waking up 15 minutes earlier to stretch is worth it. Stretching in the morning, before anything else (OK, maybe after your first cup of coffee), starts your day off in a positive way, that may lead you to do more things that are healthy for you. Not only that, the morning tends to be more quiet, and so focusing on your stretch is a little more focused.
A Few Great Floor Stretches
Here a few great stretches to get your morning started in the right direction:
1. Seated Hamstring Stretch – Sit on the floor with both of your legs spread out straight, to the sides. Take a deep breath in, and twist your torso and spine, to one side. While slowly breathing out, reach towards your foot. Reach as far as you can without bouncing. Rest your arms to your sides or if you can reach your foot, hold on to your foot with both hands, and hold. Hold and breath for up to about 30 seconds. Carefully, push yourself back up with your hands, and twist to the other side. Repeat. You will not only feel this stretch in your hamstrings, but in your lower spine as well.
2. Inner Thigh Stretch – From the Seated Hamstring Stretch, bring the soles of your feet together in front of you. Wrap your hands around your ankles and gently push down on your thighs with your elbows. Avoid tensing your upper body to do this. Let gravity and the weight of your elbows open your thighs. Remember to breath, and slowly bring your torso towards the ground while you walk your hands out in front of you. Hold, and then walk your body back up. You will feel this stretch in your glutes, inner thighs and back.
3. Shoulder Stand – From the Inner Thigh Stretch, lie on your back, and carefully swing your legs up in the air and curl your pelvis up. You want to be supporting your body on your shoulders, with your hands and arms supporting your middle back. Remember to breath, and just hold yourself in this position. You will be able to feel the blood from your feet move down your legs. You will feel the blood in your abdomen start to move as well. This stretch is excellent for circulation. Hold this pose for several minutes, and roll back down.
4. Seated Forward Bend – From the Shoulder Stand, roll your legs back to the ground and move up to a seated position. With your legs straight out in front of you, slowly breath out and stretch for your toes with both hands. If you can reach your feet, hold your feet at the arches, and hold for up to 30 seconds. If you cannot reach your feet, rest your hands and forearms as far down your legs as you can. Breath through this stretch, and hold. Do not bounce. This pose stretches your hamstrings and lower back.
5. Garland Stretch – From the Seated Forward Bend, pick yourself up onto your feet, with your knees out to the sides. Hold your knees out by pressing your palms together and elbows against your inner knee. You will feel this stretch through your lower back, glutes, knees and ankles. Let your spine sink to the floor, without touching the floor, and feel it lengthen. Hold and breath.
6. Downward Dog – From the Garland Stretch, put your hands in front of you, and move your legs behind you keeping them straight. Press your hips back keeping your hands on the ground in front of you, and your arms straight. Keeping your head relaxed, feel your shoulders, hips, calves and ankles stretch. Be sure to keep breathing, and feel this stretch from your ankles through your hands.
7. Standing Hamstring Stretch – From Downward Dog, walk your hands back towards your feet. While bending from the hips, let the weight of your body pull you towards your feet. If you cannot hold your toes, rest your hands on the floor in front of you, letting your head dangle and relax. Breath. You will feel this stretch in your hamstrings, but also in your lower back and your neck.
Slowly bend your knees, and push yourself up.
This routine should take at least 15 minutes. The longer you hold your poses, the longer the routine will be. This entire routine takes me about 25 minutes in total. When you are finished, you will feel warm, limber, awake, and ready to face the day with optimism and gratitude.