Understand The Benefits
“Now more than ever, especially with what has transpired this past year, it’s important to try to incorporate stretching into your everyday life. Hip flexors and the lower back are the parts of the body which are most compromised while sitting – this position creates weakness and tightness in the hip flexors because they are in what we call a shortened position, which is why when you do finally stand up, you may feel sore and stiff. At home, we also tend to not have the proper support for our lower backs, which is exacerbated by bad posture due to sitting in a hunched position. Sitting with incorrect posture can cause a number of problems such as sciatica, degenerative discs and muscle strain. It’s essential to stretch, otherwise you can develop a strained muscle in the hips too, which later on could lead to a strain.” – Alexandra Baldi, founder of Compass Chelsea
“Daily exercise is super important now that we’re sitting at our workstations more and shortening the front of the body due to longer periods on computers and phones. Prolonged sitting will definitely have an impact on your hip flexors, pectoral muscles and sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles – these are the muscles that run down the front of your neck and attach to the sternum and collar bone which can cause stiff neck and pain in the neck.” – Keri Perkins, yoga instructor and founder of WeAreBoogieSound
Spot The Signs
“You’ll know you need to stretch if you can identify feelings of overall stiffness in the body, tight muscles, poor posture and limited range of movement. Yes, it is possible to do tests for stretching, but awareness of the body is important, too; simply noticing how you feel, listening to the body, and taking it from there. Someone can be quite open and flexible, but still feel they need to stretch and release tension.” – Alexandra
“Low energy levels could also be a sign of needing to stretch more, as tense muscles use up more energy. Also, look out for feelings of tightness and soreness in the muscles which previously had more range of movement. Bad posture could also be a sign of needing to stretch more. Tense muscles can create bad postural habits, and daily stretching will restore self-awareness and improve this.” – Jasmine Sinclair, head stretchologist at StretchLAB
Carve Out The Time
“For optimal results, try to stretch at least once a day every day for at least ten minutes – that way you have time to stay in the stretches longer and really feel them. Results will vary depending on the person, their body, and any pre-existing injury. However, within a week you should start to notice a slight improvement.” – Alexandra
“Everybody is different, so consistency is key. For optimum results, try to stretch every day for at least 30 minutes. It will depend on how often and for how long you’re stretching for, but you may see a change in your body straight away – whether it lasts is different. Generally, after four weeks of daily stretching and regular practice is when you should see noticeable results.” – Jasmine
Try These Yoga Poses
“Stretching isn’t about yoga, it’s about doing something that is beneficial for your physical and mental wellbeing. Everyone gets stiff and tight (whether you are active or inactive), and everyone suffers from stress – so there’s no one who can’t benefit from helping to reduce any of these problems. That said, there are some fantastic yoga poses which are designed to give you a good stretch. Pigeon pose, for instance, will really allow you to really feel the hip open up. Just try to breathe in and out through the nose and with each exhale release any tension or tightening in the body. Meanwhile, lizard lunge is another great hip opener for beginners because you can always keep the leg and knee extended completely on the floor. A block or brick is a great prop if you need it.” – Alexandra
“Yoga is more than stretching; it can be dynamic and should be fun. It really isn’t all about touching your toes. Mobilising, releasing and strengthening is so important for not just physical health but emotional and mental health too. Try doing it to music – enhance your experience with a soundtrack that both energises and calms the mind. In a yoga session, the breath is key. So, when you are lengthening in a posture, you should be using long deep breaths. This will, of course, relax you, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and releasing endorphins. The flow of blood circulation will boost the immune system, which is something we can all really benefit from right now.” – Keri
Use Some Basic Equipment
“It isn’t necessary to invest in equipment for stretching, as your body weight alone is equally effective. However, that doesn’t mean equipment doesn’t do wonders for stretching. If you would like to invest, go for a yoga strap – it helps with tight hip flexors, hamstrings and increased upper body mobility. For hamstrings, try sitting on a mat with your legs extended out long and place the strap behind the feet with hands on either end of the strap. You can then slowly start to draw your chest closer to your knees with the strap and feel that nice stretch down the hamstrings. A slight bend in the knees is completely fine. A tennis ball or block are also great versatile pieces, and can be used for anything from calf stretching to shoulder and hip opening. Finally, foam rollers are great for getting rid of lactic acid, especially in the thighs and legs.” – Alexandra
Interested? Here’s a sequence of 10 basic poses to try now…
1. Supine Twist
Start by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Inhale, and bring your knees over to the left. Extend your arms and turn your head to face the right. Exhale, bringing your knees back to centre and repeat, bringing your knees over to the right, turning your head to the left.
“This is a stretch you can do to start things off, or even first thing in the morning. Just make sure your hips are stacked properly when you’re about to twist.” – Jasmine
2. Deep Lunges
Come down to your mat, placing your hands flat at the front, shoulder width apart. Lunge one leg forward between your hands and extend your back leg so your knee is just above the ground. Keep your torso straight and shift your hips forward to increase the stretch.
“Always keep your hips are level and squared. The back leg should be straight and the front knee should not pass the big toe. Use your breath to go deeper each time, and hold for 30 seconds.” – Jasmine
3. Lunges With Rotation
When in your deep lunge position, take it one step further by keeping your back leg as straight as possible, and rotate your torso in the opposite direction, raising your left arm toward the ceiling. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement.
“For a more modified version, leave the back knee bent. Place the left hand in the middle of the front of the mat and extend your right arm completely, gazing at your right fingertips. This will build strength in the legs and shoulders, stretch the hips and open the chest.” – Alexandra
This one’s simple: stand up with your back against a wall, bend your elbows at shoulder height and place your hands on the wall. Try to get your entire body as flush to the wall as possible.
“This will help relieve any tightness in the mid to upper body and forearms.” – Alexandra
5. Shoulder Opener
Come onto your knees placing both hands on your lower back with your elbows out to either side. Take a nice deep inhale and on the exhale draw the elbows together and feel the opening and release in between the shoulder blades all while keeping your shoulders melted down away from your ears.
“When we sit at a desk all day, we have a tendency to lean forward, and this stretch will help open your upper body.” – Alexandra
6. Sphinx Pose
Lie face-down on the floor with your legs extended behind you, hip-width apart. Press the tops of your feet into the mat and spread your toes. Bring your arms up and rest your elbows under your shoulders and press your forearms into the floor. Lift your head and chest up, and strongly engage your legs. Roll your outer thighs slightly outward to lengthen your lower back. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Drop your shoulder blades down your back and draw your chest forward.
“This is an amazing active pose for strengthening and stretching the lower back, glutes and chest.” – Alexandra
7. Seated Forward Fold
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Turn the top thighs in slightly and press them down into the floor. Then, lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist, and if possible, take the sides of the feet with your hands, thumbs on the soles, elbows fully extended; if this isn't possible, loop a strap around the foot soles, and hold the strap firmly. Stay in the stretch anywhere from one to three minutes.
“This is great for calming the mind, relieving anxiety and even for soothing menstrual discomfort and insomnia. It stretches the spine, shoulders and hamstrings. But use your breath, and bend the knees if you need to. The movement comes from the hips, so be mindful of your lower back. Don’t force it.” – Keri
8. Legs Up Against The Wall
Shimmy your hips as close to the wall as possible, and start walking your feet up the wall until your body is in an L-shaped position. Breathe deeply and try to stay in the pose for at least five minutes for optimal benefits.
“Legs up the wall is a more accessible restorative inversion – which offers the same benefits as a headstand. Lie on your back, get your bum close to the wall and breathe.” – Keri
9. Bear Hug
Stand tall and inhale as you open your arms out wide. Exhale as you cross your arms, placing your right arm over your left and your left over your right to give yourself a hug. Breathe deeply as you use your hands to draw your shoulders forward. Hold for 30 seconds.
“This stretches the muscles in your upper back. It helps alleviate shoulder discomfort, especially in between the shoulder blades.” – Alexandra
10. Child’s Pose
Gently sit back onto your heels with the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your knees together, then let your belly and chest round forward over your thighs. Let your forehead rest on the floor, and either let your arms rest alongside the body, with the back of the hands on the floor to allow your shoulders to slide away from each other, or you can extend your arms forward along the floor with your palms face down.
“This is an amazing resting stretch that is perfect for bringing a greater awareness to your breath, sinking deeper, and relaxing the body overall.” – Alexandra
*DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.