By Megan Vick
There is nothing like waking up in the morning and stumbling around while you wait for your hamstrings to stretch out. Or maybe you’ve been dying to try a yoga class and you don’t feel comfortable because you’re not as limber as you once were. Here are some stretches to help you regain your flexibility. Just remember to go slowly and gently while you stretch to avoid injury.
1. Pike Sit/Long Sit
This is a pretty standard stretch. Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Be sure you are sitting on your sitz bones (the bones in your booty) and not slouching at all. Your body should make a straight “L” shape. You may feel tightness in your lower body just by sitting in the proper position. To maximize your stretch, lean forward and reach your hands to your toes. Make sure you don’t slouch over your thighs or knees. Reach forward with the lower back and try to rest your forehead on your shins. This may not happen right away, but over time, you’ll gain flexibility in your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
Again, this is a stretch most people know. The easiest way to find this position is to sit in proper Pike Sit position, and then open your legs as far as you can to make a “V”. Be sure you continue to sit 100% upright- don’t slouch. To maximize your stretch, flex your feet. From there, slowly “walk” your hands out in front of you and imagine your spinal cord lengthening as your chest moves closer to the floor. You’ll gain flexibility in your inner thighs, hamstrings, back, and ankles.
Ah, yes. The dreaded split stretch. The journey to the splits is long and semi-uncomfortable. Splits are a great way to strengthen and stretch the hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. The easiest way to start working on your split is stand up on a flat surface and slowly slide one leg forward and the other leg backward. Make sure you keep your hip bones pointed straight ahead with that front leg!! If you swivel your hips, you run the risk of injury and make the stretch less effective. Take your time! If it helps, place two dining chairs on either side of you to give you support and balance as you move closer to the ground. Be sure to have both the left and right leg in front to keep your flexibility even!
4. Downward Facing Dog
Down Dog is a standard yoga pose that many people know. It’s a great pose because it strengthens and stretches the body. Stand on the floor and bend down toward your toes and rest your palms on the floor. It’s okay if your knees bend to do this. With your palms still on the floor, take a few steps away from your hands, creating an upside down “V” with your body. Feel free to adjust as you much as you need to maximize the stretch. Your weight should be evenly distributed between your palms and your feet. Take several deep breaths and you will feel the muscles relax. Stay in this position for at least one minute. Feel free to gently rest on your knees when you are finished In this pose.
5. Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose (or folded leaf) is a relaxing pose for many people. Start by sitting on your knees with your glutes resting on your heels. Round forward with your arms stretched out in front of you. Relax. Feel free to stretch your arms out more or bring them closer. This stretches your glutes, back, shoulders, and arms. Over time, you’ll feel yourself get closer to the ground as your spine elongates. Enjoy the relaxation this pose brings.
6. Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose stretches your abs, chest, biceps, and neck. Lie on the floor on your stomach. Place your palms on the floor under your shoulders and press your upper body up. Your pelvis and legs should remain on the floor while your back is arched. After doing this pose, I like to push myself back into Child’s Pose for just a few extra moments of relaxation.
Remember to move slowly and gently to help avoid injury. If you have any medical concerns, please see your doctor before changing your exercise routine.