The benefits of yoga and stretching are undeniable. Whether you’re a man or woman, young or old, athletic or not, stretching can do wonders to help alleviate muscle tightness and pain while keeping our joint mobility and our bodies flexible. I know we don't always have time for a full yoga practice so here are a few of my absolute favorite yoga stretches that will leave you feeling lighter, longer, and more relaxed.
Rise up after 10 breaths and swivel your feet to
repeat on the other side. ENJOY!
1. Triangle Pose
This stretch is my absolute favorite when my spine or lower back is feeling tight. Step your feet wide and reach your arms out to create a "T". Your ankles should roughly be stacked underneath your wrists to know that you have a wide enough stance. From here pivot your right toes forward so your foot is parallel to the yoga mat and centered (Peek down and check your foot alignment making sure your right heel is lined up with your back left foot's arch). Staying lengthened through your waist and spine, windmill your right arm down to your right ankle and your left arm up to the sky. Stay for 10 slow breaths and try to slowly improve your stretch and alignment by leaning your chest back in line with your hips, gently work on rolling you top hip back so it stacks on top of the bottom hip, try to create more space in your body as you reach through the crown of your head and root down through your feet.
2. Downward Dog
This is one of those stretches that target your WHOLE BODY in one move. I usually do downward dog first thing in the morning. It's a gentle inversion to flush blood to the head and create circulation while stretching hamstrings, shoulders, and spine at the same time! Check your alignment by keeping your hands shoulder apart, all 10 fingers spread with your middle finger pointing forward to ensure your wrist is straight. Keep your feet hip-distance apart. keep your hips high and your neck relaxed with your gaze between your knees. Stay for at least 10 breaths while you activate your muscles. Think of driving your heels towards the floor as you reach your tail bone in opposition up to the sky. Press all 10 fingers into the floor and firm your arms. Try NOT to tense your neck, instead relax your neck and let your head hang heavy.
3. Downward Dog with a TWISt
This stretch is great for stretching out your lower back and hamstrings! From Downward dog, widen your feet to the edges of the yoga mat. Transfer your weight into the left arm as you look back to your left ankle and reach your right arm back to grasp as close down towards your ankle as possible. Hold for 5- 10 breaths and actively reach your back to find more length.
4. Seated Pigeon
This seated stretch is so therapeutic for releasing tight hips which can often also cause a tight lower back. Athletes and runners often use this stretch to help loosen overused hip muscles. Sit down on the floor with your knees bent and hands behind you for support. cross your right ankle over your left knee, keeping the right knee rolled open and pointing outwards. Deepen the stretch by actively pressing your right knee away from you while you also lean your chest into the stretch towards your thighs. Stay for at least 10 breaths. Be sure to do both legs!
5. Modified Shoulder Stand with 3 Variations
For those of you who feel tight in your neck and mid-back between your shoulder blades, this is YOUR STRETCH! Try the first variation initially and explore the other variations if you feel good. Lay on your back with your knees tucked into your chest. Use a little rocking motion to help you get your hips up off the floor and place your hands under your hips for support. keep the weight on your shoulder blades NOT YOUR NECK. round your spine as much as is comfortable making your body like a ball. Breathe into your back for 10 deep breaths to help relieve tightness.
6. Shoulder Pigeon
This standing stretch is great for opening up tight chest and shoulders. A lot of my clients who surf or play tennis love this stretch and do it daily to keep a healthy range of motion in the shoulders and an open chest. Stand with your right shoulder to the wall. Reach your right arm out behind you slowly start to walk your arm up the wall exploring the stretch. stop at the angle that feels right for your shoulder. Stay for 10 breaths each arm.
7. Wide-legged child's pose with chest opening stretch
This is the perfect stretch to open your chest and back. This is especially great for mothers who are breast-feeding or holding babies all day. I love to do this stretch right before bed after a long day when you feel the need to unwind and get grounded.
find two yoga blocks or two stacks of books will do the trick also. Sit back onto your heels and open your knees shoulder-width while toes touch together. Hinge forward placing both elbows on the yoga blocks, set your hips back onto your heels and place palms together and thumbs at the nape of your neck. Take 10 expansive slow breaths and try to rest your forehead to the ground. This is a very nourishing pose. Feel relaxed and restored after.