With the coronavirus pandemic mandating we practice social distancing and self-quarantining, odds are we all don’t have full gyms at home, but this doesn’t mean we can’t move our bodies. Even if you don’t work out or are simply taking a break, stretching is especially important as we are cooped up in our homes, and our daily activities have been reduced to walking around the house. The lack of activity can tense your body up and decrease your flexibility, so don’t forget to stretch.
In addition to increasing flexibility and range of motion, the benefits of stretching include increasing blood flow to your muscles, reducing the risk of back pain, alleviating stress and calming the mind. As we acclimate to online classes at home, stretching even without actually working out can still be beneficial to put ourselves in a good head space.
Personally, I like to stretch right after I get out of the shower in the morning because I feel like it’s a good way to start my day. While you can pretty much do whatever you want to stretch your muscles out, here are a few of my favorites:
Standing Toe Touch: Whether or not you can actually touch your toes isn’t important. As long as you are reaching as far down as possible and giving your back a good stretch you’re doing great. In addition to your back, this stretch hits your quads, hamstrings and glutes.
Full Leg Stretch: To do this, place your leg on an elevated surface and try to touch your toes. This also works if you are sitting down. While this works out the same regions as the standing toe touch, I find there’s more tension on the legs here.
Butterfly Stretch: Fairly simple, this stretch begins with you sitting down and connecting the soles of your feet. Bring your feet as close to your groin as possible and move your knees up and down like a butterfly — hence the name — following a controlled pattern taking more time to go down than up. This will primarily stretch out your inner thighs, but you should feel it in the rest of your legs too.
Side Bends and Torso Rotations: For stretching the upper body, I like to start by putting my hands on my hips and rocking my body side to side followed by rotating my torso. This will stretch out the muscles in your torso and a bit of your lats.
Shoulder Stretch: Start by taking one arm and crossing it as far as possible to the opposite side (i.e., move your right arm to the left side of your body by crossing it over your chest). By simply using your other hand to facilitate this, you are doing the stretch.
Lateral Stretch: There are a few ways to stretch your laterals. While I prefer to simply raise and bring out one shoulder while lowering the other, the more traditional approach would be to stand up, put one hand in the air and bring it as far as possible to the opposite side (i.e., while raising your right hand bend your body to the left and vice versa.)
Neck Stretch: This is one of my favorite stretches to do before any class. All you do is rotate your neck side to side in any direction you want. If inclined, you can also use your hand to pull your neck to the other side, but be sure you don’t use too much force as it could damage the blood vessels or the ligaments and tendons holding your head up. In fact, if you do feel stiffness in your neck and either a no-hand or little-pressure stretch doesn’t work, it’s best to see a chiropractor.
The same dangers can be said for all stretches. Don’t push your body too much. Forcing a body part to go in a certain way can have detrimental side effects that could strain muscles and increase your susceptibility to injury. So how much is too much? It all depends on the pain you feel. While a good stretch should lead to mild discomfort to where you can feel the pull in your body, any sharp pain is not good, and if you feel it, refrain from going that far again.
Stretching is a great way to start your day. One benefit of stretching in the morning is giving yourself the feeling and recognition that you accomplished something. I find I am more productive throughout the day if I have done something, like stretching, in the morning. While there are limits to your body that everyone should acknowledge, a good stretch can help fight the overwhelming sensation of feeling trapped inside your home and kickstart your day.