By: Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
We’re all a little tight when we get out of bed in the morning, especially with the change of season and cooler air coming in through our windows. Stretching in the morning can help to open you up, loosen up your muscles and get you going for a great day.
Choose gentle stretches and listen to your body’s cues with how the stretches are making you feel. Don’t push the stretches to the point of being uncomfortable (it’s important to never push it harder than is comfortable for the sake of avoiding injury).
Start your day with these five stretches, and modify the moves to best suit your body’s needs:
Cat-cow back stretch
This stretch is a favorite of mine and I recommend it as the first one in the stretching series. It’s gentle and works to stretch the abdominal wall and back. It also helps to open the chest as well. Start by breathing in and moving through cow pose (head up, chest up), and then exhaling and moving into cat pose (back rounded; pictured). Move through this gently for five or six rounds.
Hip flexor opener — low lunge with overhead reach
Next up is my favorite hip flexor stretch. Hip flexors are especially tight when we wake up in the morning and only continue to get tighter throughout the day as we then proceed to sit at our desks and work (which makes the hip flexors shorten and tighten). Follow the stretch as in the picture — if you’re tighter it will likely be more difficult to lunge forward as I have in the photo, so be gentle and remember that your knee should not go past your toes.
The third move in this sequence is downward facing dog. Down-dog is technically a yoga move but it’s a great stretch for your hamstrings and calves and lower back as well. Be sure to push the weight back toward your heels instead of onto your wrists and hands.
Reclined hamstring stretch
Next up is the hamstrings — these are another majorly tight muscle-group in our bodies. This pose can be enhanced for someone who is super tight by using a towel or yoga strap if you are unable to reach your hamstrings. Remember that stretching shouldn’t be painful — so don’t pull too hard. Make sure to do both sides here.
Seated figure-4 stretch
To finish our stretching, try this seated figure-4. You can also do this stretch lying down instead of sitting up, which can be a little more gentle on your back. Simply lie down and put your right or left foot on the ground, knee bent and cross the ankle over the bent knee as pictured (instead of sitting up you will bring the bent figure 4 towards you by gently holding onto the back of the hamstring of the bent leg —but remember not to strain). If you’re comfortable enough to do the stretch as shown, make sure to keep your chest open and keep flexing the foot that is crossed over. You should feel this stretch in your hip, glutes and hamstrings as well.
Enjoy these stretches! Remember to be gentle and as always if something doesn’t feel right for you, please skip it!