Stretch It Out!

As you have learned in the last two lessons, stretching is vital for overall health and physical vitality, but knowing proper stretching and terminology and technique are just as imperative in order to keep you safe and injury-free. Plus, by taking your action steps… Which I know you all did… You have discovered how amazing, physically and mentally, stretching has made you feel! Not only has stretching helped you to not feel so sluggish and tight at the beginning of your workouts, but I bet it made you feel a little less painful and tight after your workout too. So, where the heck do you go from here? Would you believe me if I told you that you can gain more flexibility, more energy, more vitality, less pain, less tightness, and feel pretty amazing in just 10-15 minutes a day with consistent stretching? Let me show you how…

Stretch It Out!

Wall Chest Stretch:
Stand at end of wall or in doorway facing perpendicular to wall. Place inside of bent arm on surface of wall. Position bent elbow shoulder height. Turn body away from positioned arm. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite arm.

Door Lat Stretch:
Stand and hold onto a stable structure. Sit your hips back and allow your arm to go overhead. You should feel a stretch just under your armpit. Don’t allow your back to excessively round or arch during the stretch.

Quadriceps:
Stand and touch wall or stationary object for balance. Grasp top ankle or forefoot behind. Pull ankle or forefoot to rear end. Straighten hip by moving knee backward. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite side.

Kneeling Hip Flexor:
Lunge forward with knee on floor. Position foot beyond forward knee. Place hands on knee. Straighten hip of rear leg by pushing hips forward. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite side.

Figure 4 Stretch:
Lie on your back with both legs in the air. Place your right ankle on your thigh above your left knee. Reach your right hand through the open space created by your right leg and grab your left hand that is reaching around the outside of your left thigh. Slowly bend your left knee. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right hip. To increase the stretch, twist just the pelvis a bit to the left and the stretch should intensify.

Lying Hamstring:
Sit on mat or floor with knees bent. Position towel under middle of foot with hands grasping towel on both ends. Lie back and raise leg straight above maintaining grip on towel with both hands. Pull leg back while keeping knee straight. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite leg.

Lower Back Twist:
Lying on your back, bring both knees in to your chest. Spread both arms out wide for balance. Slowly roll your bent legs as far as possible to one side. For a deeper stretch, straighten the bottom leg. This will provide an even deeper stretch through the glutes and lower back. Hold. Switch sides.

Press-ups:
Lying on your stomach, with your hands at shoulder height, elbows tucked in tight to your sides. Pressing your hips in to the floor and keeping your feet down, press up through your hands and elbows, with forearms on floor, slowly raise your upper body off the ground. Hold. For a deeper stretch, straighten your arms until there is a light bend in your elbows, or until tolerance.

Child’s Pose:
Come to a hands and knees position (quadruped) on the mat with your toes pointing behind you, big toes touching. Widen your knees towards the outside of the mat as you sit back toward your heels. As you sit back, try to bring your hips all the way to your heels or as far back as possible. Stretch out through your back and arms. Allow your chest to rest between your thighs and your forehead to rest on the floor. Inhale as you lengthen the spine, extending through the upper body, and exhale as you fold deeper into the pose, widening the knees as needed.

Downward Dog:
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone and press it lightly toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins. With an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Straighten the arms, keeping a slight bend in the elbows, and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor.

Corpse Pose:
Start on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips off the floor and lengthen your spine along the floor. Return the hips. Straighten your legs and let your feet fall out naturally to the sides. Slide the shoulders away from your ears and tuck your shoulder blades under you on the floor, create space in the armpits and stretch your arms out long palm side facing up. Feel release in the head and let go while feeling your head heavy in the floor. Breathe naturally in and out through your nose, filling your throat, chest and belly with every inhale. Be sure to exhale fully.

Be still and calm and continuously check your body again and again for areas of tension. Stay here for 3-5 minutes (or longer).

When finished, slowly wiggle your toes and fingers and bend your knees bringing your feet flat. Roll to your right side and curl into fetal position sit up when you feel ready.

What are some of the benefits of the corpse pose?

1. Calm and balance for the body
2. Relaxation for high blood pressure
3. Time to take beneficial deep breaths
4. Allows the body and mind time to decompress

ACTION STEP:

Try this program at home (at any time of the day) or at the gym following your workout. For general health and flexibility, you will benefit the most with daily stretching that targets the whole body. Perform each stretch for 20-30 seconds each with a static hold (no bouncing allowed!) most days of the week. Perform the corpse pose any time you need some relaxation or to rest your mind.

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