When you think of stretching, you probably think of the groan-inducing cooldown session you avoid post-workout. But stretching not only has physical benefits, like helping to relieve muscle tension and improving flexibility, but it can also be done anytime, anywhere.
A perfect time for stretching is before bedtime as you wind down from the grind of the day.
“There are a plethora of reasons why stretching before bedtime is beneficial for your body,” says Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo, a NYC-area spinal and orthopedic surgeon. “Stretching before bed allows you to relax your muscles and relieve tension that may have built up throughout the day. It can also help prevent any muscle cramps within the night and ensure that you do not wake up feeling stiff and achy.”
Stretching every night can also help make sure the body’s muscles stay nimble and flexible with age. If you’re looking to incorporate bedtime stretching into your nighttime routine, here are some relaxing stretches to try tonight.
According to Dr. Okubadejo, child’s pose, is an easy exercise “that aims to stretch the body from the neck to the lower back. It can relieve tension within the neck and help lengthen the spine.”
- To perform this pose correctly, you must kneel on the floor and lean back onto your heels.
- Then, bend over forwards with your arms outstretched in front of you. Your abdomen should be touching the front of your thighs and your face should be close to the floor.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat for three times total.
If you’re looking for a good chest opener (especially for those who are at the computer all day long), Yami Mufdi, a Tone It Up trainer and yoga instructor, suggests puppy pose, which helps to loosen up tension in your back and shoulders while increasing flexibility.
- She recommends starting in a tabletop position, making sure the shoulders are over the wrists and the hips over the knees.
- Walk your hands a few inches in front of you and on your exhale, shift your hips back to ensure they are stacked over your knees.
- While keeping your arms active and engaged, slowly press your chest toward the ground with elbows staying off the ground. Breathe while you draw your hips towards your heels and feel that nice stretch throughout your chest and arms.
*To modify, feel free to add a blanket under your knees or resting your head on a block or rolled-up blanket or firm pillow!
“A neck roll is great for those suffering from neck pain or stiffness,” says Dr.Okubadejo. “It is also simple to perform and can be done sitting in bed prior to laying down.” Before you start, he recommends making sure that you are standing or sitting upright with your shoulders in line with your lower back.
- First, move your chin close to your sternum so that you feel a slight stretch in your neck.
- Then, “roll” your head to the right so that your right ear is almost touching your right shoulder. Hold this position for five seconds and then perform the same rolling motion all the way to the left side.
- Repeat this exercise until you have completed at least 5 rounds on each side.
Mufdi says pigeon pose is her number one favorite. “Not only does it feel absolutely amazing, but I think it only gets better the more you do it! Pigeon pose is such a great hip opener, but will also stretch your thighs, groin, back, and your glutes! It’s my go-to after traveling or sitting for long periods of time.”
- From tabletop position, bring your right knee towards your right wrist. (Your right ankle will land somewhere in front of your left hip)
- Slide your left leg back to a straight position while pointing your toes.
- Make sure that your hips are square here. Directing your back heel towards the ceiling is a good way to help the hips stay square. You could also use additional support by placing a block or a pillow under your right glute.
- On your inhale, come up onto your fingertips, draw your belly button in and lengthen the spine. On your exhale, slowly walk your fingertips forward as your upper body lowers towards the floor. You can rest on your forearms if you’re able to, or create a “pillow” with your hands and rest your forehead on your hands.
Stay here for about 9 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Looking for a nice stretch up and down your spine? Dr. Okubadejo recommends the spinal twist pose, which can stretch the back all the way up in between the shoulder blades to down close to the tailbone. Sounds pretty nice, huh?
- Lay flat on your back and bend your legs so that the bottoms of your feet are on the floor and your knees are pointed up towards the ceiling.
- Extend your arms straight on either side of your body to form a “T”.
- Gently lower your knees to the right but keep your arms in the same position. Turn your neck to the left so that you are looking in the opposite direction of your knees.
Then, hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat to the left for a total of 3 times on each side.
Reclining bound angle pose
- Mufdi also recommends this hip-opener which help to relieve tension in both hips and groin, “allowing you to completely relax before falling asleep. You can even do it in bed!”
- Sit with the soles of your feet together.
- Slowly lean back on your hands to bring your upper body towards the floor. If not on a bed, feel free to use pillows under your head and knees for support.
- Place your arms by your side, or one hand on your belly and the other over your heart. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
Hold this pose for as long as you wish and sleep well!!
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