Cut the kvetching, start the stretching.
Stretching is proven to make us feel better; more relaxed and happier not to mention limber and flexible. My favorite part of any workout (aside from the pre-workout snack I eat – crunchy peanut butter and half a banana (life)) are the warm up and cool down stretches I do. I know what I feel like if I don’t stretch and when I do, it gives me the opportunity to check in with my physical self, breathe deeply and limber up. I move more comfortably through my day when I’ve stretched and I feel emotionally better afterward, too; calmer and more relaxed.
When it comes to lifting a bad mood or winding down for sleep, and even dealing with ‘time of the month’ cramps, stretching can be a very helpful tool. If you want a bit of relief, all you need to do is stretch it out.
Now quick note here, you don’t need to be a level 17 yogi to do a stretch. Even if you haven’t done dedicated, mindful stretching before, these simple moves can make a world of difference in how you feel in your body. You can stretch on the floor, on a mat, or on your bed – no special equipment needed. Here are three simple stretches you can try. You may get hooked, just a warning.
This is a very simple move and calms the brain, relieving stress and mild depression. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and don’t start until you feel grounded (meaning you can physically feel your feet touching the ground). Slowly roll down hinging from your hips, aiming to touch your toes. Don’t force it, just keep your legs straight and reach as far down as you can toward your toes. You can also slightly bend your knees and hug them, or cradle your elbows. Hold this for one minute and then slowly and steadily roll up. While in position, breathe deeply – in through your nose and out through your mouth.
This is my all-time favorite. It calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue. It’s also restorative, so I find myself doing it quite often at the gym between sets. Place your knees on the floor, slightly wider than hips and have your big toes touching, if possible. Sit on your shins and bend forward, stretching your arms out in front of you. Look down and just breathe! Hold this pose for a minute or two. You may not want to come out of it. I swear, I could sleep in this pose.
I do love a good cobra as well. Be gentle on your lower back when doing this pose. It helps to open the chest up and harnesses creativity (I’ll take that) as well as relieves stress and fatigue. Lie face down on the floor, tops of feet touching the floor. Position your hands right under your shoulders and slowly come up, pressing your feet and legs into the floor as you go and keeping your arms tight against your chest. Don’t over extend the stretch, you shouldn’t feel pain in your back. Open your chest up and look slightly up. Hold this for 30 seconds, then slowly release.
Remember not to overdo these stretches or force your body and if you’ve got a physical limitation or issue, speak to a physiotherapist first before doing these moves. Even if you have done yoga before, this is a good reminder of what you can do to manage stress, even if you have just a moment do to it.