Stretching has multiple benefits for both your body and mind. Incorporating stretching into your daily routine allows muscles to be well circulated and ultimately healthier. Stretching is beneficial for posture, flexibility, reducing stress and body aches and injury prevention. And what's great is that stretching is something you can do almost anywhere; home, work, a park you name it.
Here are my top 3 three stretches, aimed to help you feel more balanced, have less of the most common aches and pains and stand taller:
Laughing Baby Stretch
Imagine a baby, laying on its back, holding its feet and laughing whilst it rocks from side to side. This stretch is amazing for helping to stretch the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Try laying on your back, hold the outer edge of your feet with your hands and bend your knees towards your armpits positioning your elbows inside your knees. Then hold your feet wide apart from each other and lengthen your lower back along the floor.
To advance the stretch and target the hamstrings more, you can gently straighten your legs too.
The lunge stretch targets your hip flexors (psoas major) and medial quadriceps. Tight hips and quadriceps can contribute to aching backs and slouched postures as they pull your pelvis into a forward, anterior tilt. Lengthening them will help the pelvis sit in a more neutral position reducing tension in the lower back and enabling you to stand taller and prouder.
Getting down on one knee, lean your bodyweight forward into your front leg, keeping your torso upright and knee at a 90 degree angle over the ankle (move your foot forward if the knee goes past the toes). At this point you should be feeling a stretch through the front and top of the back leg and to make it a bit juicier, reach your arms above your head and slightly arch your torso back and take long inhalations and exhalations.
The cobra stretch lengthens the front of the body and strengthens the many long stabiliser muscles of the spine. This will improve spinal mobility and also help us stand taller and prouder with less aches and pains in the back and shoulders.
Lay on your stomach on the floor, legs out straight, front of the feet flat the floor (plantar flexion), forehead to the floor hands on the floor under the chest and elbows pinned up to the ribs. Inhale, press the lower body and front of the pelvis to the floor and push the upper body up from the floor, making a gentle back bend and letting the head tilt so that you can see the ceiling. Keep the arms active as they hold your up and keeping pressing the lower body to the floor. Exhale, then gently release to the floor and repeat again.
To maximise your stretching routine, think about adopting general good habits which will help change your life and feeling of well being, include setting your office chair to a height where your feet touch the floor but your knees are not higher than your hips, pelvic floor contractions when driving or brushing your teeth and/or using your legs whilst bracing your abdominals to lift heavy objects and smiling with your collar bones.
Founder of KX Pilates, Aaron Smith, is an award-winning fitness innovator and entrepreneur. Based on the Japanese concept of kaizen (continuous improvement), KX Pilates is a dynamic workout that has transformed both fitness participants and the business at large, which in less than a decade took Smith from $20K in the red to a 50-studio international franchise turning over $20 million. Kaizen drives Smith physically and mentally and imbues everything he does, from the way he sharpens his business skills to the lessons he has applied to his life thus far. He lives and acts by the principle of creating a culture of empowerment for franchisees so that everyone in the KX Pilates rises with the brand's success.