Sitting is part of our every day, even if we lead an active lifestyle. Sitting isn't necessarily a bad thing, but long periods of sitting and lack of stretching can cause postural problems.
Hip flexors, for example (the muscles in front of your hip that raise your leg when you walk), become shortened from sitting for long periods of time. Over time, these muscles stay shortened even when you stand up, which changes the position of the pelvis. Since the pelvis creates the foundation for the rest of the body, your spine, which connects to the top of the pelvis, also becomes compromised. The chain of imbalance continues up the spine to the neck and head, which typically juts forward as a result of the body's need to balance itself.
The stretching solution: Regular stretching can address these specific postural imbalances. Here is a posture-improving stretching routine to help realign your body and reduce your risk of back and joint pain and injuries. Do these stretching exercises in the prescribed order every day for best results.
Lie on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees, placing your calves on the seat of a chair. Straighten your arms out from the shoulders with your palms up. Relax, breathing deeply, letting your low back settle into the floor. Hold the position for 5 minutes (yes, minutes!).
Stay in the "relax the back" position. Lace your fingers, palms together, with your arms extended above your chest toward the ceiling. Extend your arms, keeping your elbows straight, over your head to the floor behind you. Repeat 30 times with a steady, controlled movement.
Lie on your back with your feet on the wall and your knees bent less than 90 degrees (glutes should only be about four to six inches from wall and knees almost touching chest). Lace your fingers behind your head to support your neck. Keep your elbows back while looking at the ceiling. Exhale as you use your stomach muscles to lift your shoulders, elbows and head off the floor, then lower. Be sure you don't pull on your head with your hands. Repeat for two sets of 30 reps.
Kneel (preferably on a padded floor). Bring your right knee into a 90 degree angle and push your left leg back so it's at an angle where you feel stretch in the front of your hip. Keep your legs parallel to each other and place your hands on your right knee and let your hips sink forward to the floor, keeping your upper body straight. Do not lean forward. Hold for 1 minute and switch legs.
Lie on your back with your right leg bent and resting on a chair at a 90 degree angle. Place your left leg straight on the floor, keeping your toes pointed up so your knee and foot do not roll out. Place your arms straight out from your shoulders with your palms up. Breathe deeply and relax your body. Remain in this position for 10 minutes, then repeat on other side.
Sit against the wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent at 90 degrees, heels straight under or slightly in front (not behind) of your knees. Keep your feet pointing straight ahead, push your lower back into wall and keep pressure on heels. Press your shoulders back, keeping your head up, and relax your shoulders, neck, arms and hands. Hold for 90 seconds.
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