When you think about stretching, your mind probably floods with images of people swilling juiced grass out of tiny plastic shot glasses, or contorting into positions called Spiraling Downward Donkey or whatever. “Hell,” you say. “What do I need to stretch for? Did George Washington stretch in his boat on the Delaware? Did Edmund Hillary stretch out those hammies before he scaled Everest? I bet he guzzled whiskey and snorted bacon bits straight to the top.”
Slow down, friend. Stretching isn’t just for the granola-types out there. Whether you’re training for your first half marathon or just training to get up the stairs without your knees giving out; whether you’re scaling Everest or just want to keep your body nimble and healthy as possible, stretching is one of the best things you should be doing but probably aren’t.
Early Morning Wake Up Routine | The Windshield Wiper
Taken right from the Yoga Nerd Handbook, the Windshield Wiper is an excellent stretch technique we’d recommend for some easy early morning stretching that you can do from the comfort of your bed. Not only does it work your abs and obliques, but it’ll also work your lower back muscle and stretch your spine. It’s particularly good for working out those post-sleep kinks that often develop.
Start by lying on your back and bringing your knees up toward your chest. Lay your hands extended at your sides, palms facing down. Lower your knees to the left side of your body until your left knee touches the floor. Turn head to your right, and take a deep breath. Bring your knees back up to the center, facing the ceiling, and then switch sides. Turn your head to the left, and then breathe. Link
Lower Back Pain | The Standing Hamstring Stretch
The Standing Hamstring Stretch is simple and involves little effort to accomplish, but the benefits are unbelievable. Not only does it help stretch out your hamstrings (which is never a bad thing), but it’s also great for remedying lower back pain. Start by placing your left foot a few inches in front of your right foot, making sure your left toes are lifted off the ground. Then, bend your right knee slightly and bend forward from your hips, placing both of your palms on your right knee for support and balance. Keep your back straight and your shoulders down, and you’ll feel your muscles tighten and relax. After 30 seconds, alternate legs. Link
Full Stomach | Fish Pose
You and your homeboys went in a just a little too hard at the all you can eat Korean BBQ spot, and you spent the whole ride home with that, “I’m so full I might vomit” feeling making its way through your body. We’ve been there. The Fish Pose will help straighten your stomach and help relieve some of the discomfort until your large and small intestine handle the real work. The best part is that it’s really simple and feels so good.
Start by lying on your back with your legs fully extended and your feet pointing straight. Lift your head and upper back off the ground and prop yourself up with your elbows, bent at the elbow and palms flat on the floor. Tilt your head back, breathe, and allow your stomach to stretch as much as it needs to. Link
Cardio Cool Down Stretch | The Butterfly Stretch
Easily one of our favorite stretches, the Butterfly Stretch helps loosen up your hips, lower back, groin, and thighs. And it’s simple, too. You can use this one if you’ve been working in the yard all day, ran around with the kids at the park, or spent the afternoon playing pickup basketball with your buddies.
From a sitting position, sit up tall, bringing the soles of your feet together and your knees dropped down to your sides as far as they will go without hurting you. The idea should be to suck your heels inward toward your groin, bending your knees outward far as they’ll go. From there, grab your feet with your hands, breathe in, and then lean forward from your hips, bringing your face as close to the ground as you can, while exhaling. Good posture is important here, however, because if you round out your back rather than straighten it, you risk straining it. When you begin feeling comfortable and want to increase your stretch, simply press your thighs closer to the floor. Link
Stiff Shoulders | Half Kneeling Hip Flexor
Say what you will, but the older you get, the larger an issue your hip and torso mobility becomes. Keeping these parts of your body well stretched and nimble are only going to make your life easier, and this stretch is specifically designed to help you make that happen.
Start by kneeling down, with your right knee on the ground, running in line with your hip and torso, and your left knee straight out, left foot on the floor, below the knee. From there, lift your right arm in the air, then activate your right glute, and then slowly shift your torso forward. It sounds far more complicated than it is.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is that your glute remains tight throughout the duration of the stretch, because letting it go means risking rotating your pelvis anteriorly and generating strain. Link
Hangover Cure | Full Boat Pose
If your hangover is brutal enough, you might get nauseous at the mere sight of this pose. However, if you can manage it, it’s a great way to help get your blood flowing and digestive tract moving, which, aside from water, is the second best thing you can do to help a hangover.
Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place both of your hands behind you, palms down with your fingers pointed at your feet. Lean back slightly until you’re sitting on the “tripod” of your sitting bones and tailbone. From here, bend your knees, and then slowly begin to lift your feet off the floor. While you do this, remember to keep your back straight. If you can, straighten your legs at the bend and raise your feet to eye level, keeping your calves parallel to the floor. Once you’ve found your balance, stretch your arms out to your kneecaps, running them parallel to the floor as well. If you can’t quite manage that, you can always grab your thighs instead. Link
Easing Achy Old Man Joints | Single Knee-To-Chest Stretch
The Knee-To-Chest Stretch is a favorite of ours because no matter what seems to ail you—whether it be sore hips, joints, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, or even your spine, it’ll help remedy your aches and pains. Whether you’re starting to feel all eight years you were trying to make it as a professional skateboarder or your knees are finally getting tired of your life as a carpenter, this is the stretch for you.
Start by laying flat on your back with your legs flat on the floor. Slowly bend at the knee and bring one leg up into your chest. Take both hands, wrap them around your knee, and bring it as close to your chest as you can get. Hold it there for roughly 20 seconds, then let it go and repeat the process with the other leg. Make sure you’re pressing your lower back to the floor and keeping your posture straight. This exercise will help align your hips, as well as stretch a variety of muscle groups. Link
Posture Correction | Shoulders Back
Aside from looking like a slouch, bad posture can wreak havoc on the overall health of your body, resulting in everything from achy joints and muscles, even breathing problems. The Shoulders Back Stretch is a great way to help open up your pectoral muscles, release the back, and get blood flowing. It’s also a great spine stretch, too.
Start out standing on your two feet parallel and underneath your hips. Clasp your hands behind your back, and then gently—without lifting your shoulders—start slowly lifting your arms. Keep them straight and locked, and just lift them as far back as you can go. You’ll feel your heart open up, your chest start to become tight, and your spine working itself out. Plus, it just feels damn good. Link
Neck Fatigue From Too Much Texting | Seated Neck Release
If you’re staring at your phone or a computer screen for hours on end, you’re destined to get yourself wrapped up in some serious neck fatigue. This stretch is simple and can be done damn near anywhere, no matter what’s going on around you. It’s simple, inconspicuous, and won’t earn you a trip to the HR office (or the emergency room) if you do it at your desk.
Sit on the floor or in a chair with your legs either crossed or flat on the ground. Place one arm at your side. Take the other arm, and bring it over your head to the opposite ear, and apply gentle pressure with your hand to pull/bend it toward the side of the hand. You’ll feel the stretch immediately, and if you want to experience more, just apply a little more pressure. Link
Too Much Chair Time | The Seated Spinal Twist
Pulling far too many hours at the office this week? Is that cheap computer chair finally beginning to take its toll on your back? The Seated Spinal Twist is something you can do while at your desk (and without looking too strange) for immediate relief. It helps stretch out your lower back and shoulders, as well as correct any kind of spinal strain that comes with long hours spent in a chair.
Sitting tall and straight in your chair, breathe in deeply and spin your body to either side of your chair. As you stretch as far around as you can, slowly exhale. If you have an armrest, feel free to use it to help stretch more. Breathe in and out slowly five times, and then switch sides and repeat the process until you feel loose. Link