Without getting into those more complicated poses and stretches, here’s a list of some simple stretches to incorporate into your weekly exercise routine. Each stretch will help strengthen and improve flexibility for every area of your body. Simply doing these poses every morning will help relieve the tension that causes the aches and pains we often experience throughout the day. Give your muscles some love with these seven stretches you should be doing daily.
1#1 Downward Dog
Whether you’re a yogi at heart or just the average exercise junkie, the downward dog stretch is an essential stretch in your daily routine. This pose centers on the hips and shoulders to improve mobility and range of motion in those key joint areas. You’re also stretching your hamstrings, your mid-back muscles (lats), and your shoulder muscles (deltoids).
How To: Starting in the plank position with your shoulders directly over your wrists, push your hips toward the ceiling, bringing your hands closer to your legs. Find a comfortable position as your body rests in this triangle shape. Your head should stay between your shoulders while your legs stay straight. Gently push your heels toward the ground until you feel resistance, not pain. Lastly, make sure to spread your fingers so there is a more even bodyweight distribution.
2#2 Crescent Pose to Low Lunge
The initial crescent pose is about finding balance throughout your body. You’ll engage your abs, hip flexors, and chest in this high lunge position. In combination with the low lunge, these stretches will improve flexibility in your hips and quadriceps.
How To: Stand with one foot behind the other, as in a staggered position, and bend your front knee to create a 90-degree angle. Your back leg should remain straight behind you and your front knee should be directly over your front heel. Next, lift your arms straight up in line with your shoulders, or close to your ears. Your palms should be facing inward. Gently push your chest up as your arch your back and bring your hip forward. To get into the low lunge, your back knee should touch the ground.
3#3 Child’s Pose
Whatever the reason for naming it “Child’s Pose”, this stretch is one of the most calming positions to be in. It takes no toll on the body or mind. You simply relax and focus on your breathing while stretching your low back, lats, and shoulders.
How To: Start on all fours, meaning your hands and knees should be touching the mat. Slowly push your hips back until your posterior rests on your heels. Your knees should be slightly more open to cradle your upper torso. Your arms should remain straight in front of you while you keep your head low to the ground.
4#4 Cat and Cow Pose
The muscles in the back are so important in maintaining a good and steady exercise routine. Let’s face it, if your back is shot, you’ve got the perfect excuse to stay clear of any physical activity for a long while. If your back is feeling stiff, these stretches should improve flexibility and mobility along your spine. They work in combination to target your core area and back muscles.
How To: Just like the Child’s Pose, start on all fours, with your hands and knees touching your mat. Your wrists should be in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Gently tuck in your pelvis as your round your back into an arch to fully stretch your abs and chest muscles. You’ll slip into the Cow Pose by arching your back inward while sticking your chest out. Alternate between the cat and cow positions; just remember to inhale and exhale through the movements.
5#5 Spinal Twist
It seems like most of these stretches focus on the lower back and hips, but those areas are most used in daily life so they require special attention. The Spinal Twist in a lying position can help realign the spine and improve flexibility while strengthening your core muscles. If you suffer from sciatica pain, this stretch can help you cope with the pain.
How To: Begin by lying on your back with your arms stretched out to either side and in line with your shoulders. Your shoulder blades should remain touching the mat. Bring your knees in toward your chest and roll your lower body to your right side. Hold for 30 seconds. Slowly bring your legs back to the center and roll to the left side. Hold for another 30 seconds. Keep alternating sides while stopping at the center briefly. Engage your core muscles. You can modify this stretch by keeping one leg stretched out (right), rolling your bent knee (left) over the extended leg and placing your arm (right) over your bent knee. Do this on both sides.
6#6 Single Leg Stretch
We could all benefit from a little more flexibility and core strength. Crunches and sit-ups are a pain on the neck and back, and the plank gets old after a while. This leg stretch will improve flexibility in your hamstrings while engaging the core muscles.
How To: Lie straight on your back and lift both legs toward the ceiling. Like working a pair of scissors, lower one leg toward your mat while pulling the other leg toward your upper body. To maintain your balance, hold your raised leg anywhere below the knee cap. You can lift your shoulders off the ground at this point. Make sure to keep your legs straight and toes pointed. Hold for 15 seconds, and alternate between your left and right legs.
7#7 Side Oblique Stretch
It doesn’t get any simpler than this oblique stretch. This pose engages three key areas: lats, hips, and obliques. You’ll stand taller and lengthen your sides with this easy stretch.
How To: Stand with your legs forming a strong base. Your feet should be positioned slightly wider than your hips. With your palm facing inward, reach your right arm over your head and lean toward the opposite side. Place your left hand comfortably on your left knee or outer thigh. Hold for 10 seconds and switch arms.
Remember to breathe through each pose or stretch and drink plenty of water!