As a yoga instructor for over a decade, I preach the importance of stretching. Stretching not only helps your muscles warm up and recover from workouts, reducing your risk of injury, but also for posture, blood flow and mobility purposes. I encourage my private clients to focus on yoga-based stretching because this incorporates breathing and mindfulness with the stretches, so you get a bigger bang for your buck!
In this quick routine, we are focusing on the larger muscle groups since the smaller muscles and tendons usually take a bit longer to get fully stretched. Plus, they’re also used more in day to day life (think about how often you use your thighs, glutes and hamstrings to simply walk!).
The 5-minute stretch routine outlined below is one that I personally follow and one that I encourage my private clients to perform regularly. If you’re exercising, you can hold these stretches for 20-30 seconds each at the end of your workout. (If you stretch before your workout, make sure you are moving while stretching with dynamic movements — versus static stretches like these.) If you aren’t working out and are just looking for a great stretch routine to help loosen up or relieve pain or stiffness, then you can do this routine anywhere, anytime.
Modified Low Lunge
This stretch opens up your hip flexors to help alleviate tension and tightness in the low back and front of the hips. Step your right foot forward and your left foot back with your feet as wide as your hips. Lower down onto your left knee, and make sure that your right knee is over your right ankle. Place your hands on either side of the right foot, and breathe in through the nose then out through the mouth slowly. Hold this for five slow, mindful breaths, and then switch legs.
You can perform this stretch from the low lunge position or standing. From the low lunge, when your left knee is on the ground and your right foot is forward, twist to the right and reach for the left toes with your right hand. If you can reach, pull the left toes towards your left glute to feel a stretch in your left quad. If this is impossible, that’s okay! Move into the standing quad stretch instead. While standing, simply bend your left knee and reach your left hand back towards your left foot. Pull your left foot towards your glute, and keep your left knee reaching towards the midline of the body. Feel a stretch in your left quad. Hold for five slow, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
The muscles in the backs of the legs become shortened due to sitting and a sedentary lifestyle. To stretch the hamstrings, all you have to do is stand up and bend forward at the waist. Reach the arms down towards the ground and let them hang like floppy wet noodles. Bend one knee and then bend the other knee while breathing in and out through the nose. Hold this for five deep breaths. Feel free to shake your head yes and no, sway your arms to the right and left, or stay still. To come up to standing, slowly roll up the spine up one vertebrae at a time, pulling the naval in towards the spine to support your low back.
The muscles of the butt can get tight from sitting too much, too. That’s why stretching them out daily is important to keep the lower body limber and loose. To stretch these muscles, you can stand (or sit). Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and sink down slowly until you feel a stretch in the right glute. Hold for five slow, deep breaths and make sure to flex your right foot to protect the right knee. Repeat this on the left side.
Standing Side Stretch
Stretching the side waist not only allows for more room for the internal organs, but also just feels really good. Especially if you sit in a desk chair all day with less-than-stellar posture. While standing, reach the arms up towards the ceiling. Keep the feet firmly planted on the ground and parallel with one another. Clasp the hands at the top and lean over towards the left to stretch the right side of your body. Relax the shoulders. Pull the naval in towards the spine to support the low back. Hold this for five slow, deep breaths, then come up through center and repeat on the other side.