Stretching is one of those things most of us put on the back burner. I for one feel like it's all I can do to get in a moderate amount of exercise on a regular basis, let alone complete a list of must-do stretches every day.
However, the fact of the matter is stretching is pretty darn important. In a piece for Shape that was also featured on The Huffington Post, fitness professional and athlete Nora Tobin noted that one of the most common questions she gets from clients is, "Do I really need to stretch," and her honest answer is simply, "yes."
She noted that stretching not only increases your range of motion, which prevents injury in both sports and every day life, but it also increases circulation (which she noted promotes faster healing) and can reduce stress. "When you’re anxious, worried, or worn out, it places extra strain on the body, causing you to feel stressed. By taking a few minutes each day to unwind and relieve this unwanted tension, you will experience a sense of relief and stress will slowly start to fade away," she wrote.
If you're interested in incorporating stretching into your daily routine, but just aren't sure where to start, here are 11 super simple daily stretches that will make you feel great.
1. The Standing Side Stretch
In a piece for Real Simple, Dana Slamp, a senior yoga instructor at Pure Yoga, in New York City, recommended starting out with a super simple standing side stretch. She recommended taking five slow breathes before returning to center each time.
2. The Forward Bend
On her YouTube channel, yoga instructor Kino MacGregor recommended a simple forward bend for relieving back tension — especially in your lower back. Check out her above video to make sure you're doing it correctly and getting the most out of the stretch.
3. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
If you have trouble with tightness in your hip joints, I totally recommend this stretch from a Shape compilation piece. It will help open up your hip sockets, which helps you maintain flexibility and mobility in the long run.
4. Upper Back Stretch With Towels
I spend a ton of my day hunched in front of a computer, so I'm a HUGE fan of stretches that open up and stretch out my upper my back and shoulders. I personally am loving this one from ThreeSixty Osteopathy Limited (I initially found it by googling stretches for my upper back). It feels absolutely amazing and has become one of my end of the day go-tos.
5. Downward Facing Dog
Tobin highly recommended incorporating downward facing dog into your daily stretching routine. She noted that it imprioves flexibility in your calves, hamstrings, and shoulders, while also relieving pressure in your lower back.
6. Lying Piriformis Stretch
Tobin also recommended this one, which is specifically intended to increase flexibility in your hips and glutes. It's especially helpful for those of us who sit all day long, which can keep our hip joints pretty stiff. And bonus, it helps keep your knees and hips aligned.
7. Spinal Stretch
This super simple stretch feels amazing — especially if you carry tension in your lower back. And according to YogaJournal.com, it can even help improve your digestion if done regularly.
8. Neck Stretch
Kate Parker, fitness writer at Real Simple, noted the importance of a simple neck stretch, especially if you sit at a desk all day. She says rotating the neck from side to side opens up muscles that have likely been sitting in place for too long, helping to prevent chronic soreness.
9. Cat Cow Stretch
In a piece for About.com's health section, yoga expert Ann Pizer recommended warming up the back with a few cat-cow stretches (the one where you arch your back while on all-fours). "Initiate each movement from your tailbone and let it ripple up the spine. Move your head last of all," she wrote. She noted that the stretch will help "awaken and invigorate your whole body."
10. Cat-Camel Twist
In a video series for the PsychTruth YouTube channel on stretches for relieving back pain, professional yoga instructor Jen Hilman adds an additional step the cat-camel in which you slowly rotate the spine by bring your shoulder towards the floor (as demonstrated in 23:20 of the above video). She noted that this will help to really stretch and elongate your upper spine.
11. Child's Pose
In a piece for the Chopra Center's website, Dr. Steven Weiss, yoga teacher, chiropractor and author of The Injury-Free Yoga Practice recommended finishing your stretches with a simple child's pose, writing that "It helps align the spine and takes pressure off the lower back." I personally always find that this one works wonders when I don't have a ton of time but want to do at least one back stretch.
Stretching every day doesn't have to be some big to do. Plus, it's one of those small daily steps that brings in huge returns. So carve out some time in the morning or evening, and get your stretch on!
Image: Pexels (1)