Rise & Shine … and Stretch
If you were asked to stand in one spot for eight hours, chances are, you’d consider that some kind of torture. Keeping your body stiff and immobile for that long typically results in significant discomfort, pain and muscle cramps.
But, we don’t realize that we’re doing something similar to ourselves every night by sleeping. When we wake up in the morning, many of us have creaky, protesting joints even before we get out of bed. Our natural response is to stretch, and this is a good thing. Stretching helps to improve circulation, relieve tension and increase the range of motion in our muscles and joints.
Before you even start brewing your coffee in the morning, take 5 to 10 minutes to stretch your body, including your back and spine, and you’ll find you feel better and can perform tasks more efficiently throughout the day. Start with these four stretches tomorrow morning:
- Back stretch. While still lying in bed, bring your knees up to your chest—you can hold them in place with your hands. At the same time, tilt your head up as though you’re going to touch your forehead to your knees, but don’t strain.
- Gluteus stretch. That would be a polite way of saying this one stretches your backside. Stretching your buttock muscle can help your spine retain its flexibility. While lying down with your legs straight ahead of you, pull your left knee up and hold on it with your left hand. Grab the left ankle with your right hand and pull it lightly so your left knee comes toward your opposite shoulder, until you can feel the stretch in your gluteus muscle.
- Neck and shoulder stretch. You can also stay in bed for this one, but sit up. Bend your head forward to bring your chin toward your chest until you feel the stretch in the back of your neck. Hold, but don’t bounce. Next, slowly bend your neck from side to side, as though you’re going to touch your ear to your shoulder.
- Hamstring stretch. The hamstrings run through the back of your thighs and help the pelvis move. Stretching them can reduce the stress you feel in your lower back. This stretch consists of a simple forward bend (sorry, you’ll have to get out of bed now and stand up). With your arms hanging down and your legs straight, try to touch your toes, but don’t strain. If this hurts your back, sit in a firm, supportive chair and lift your legs straight out in front of you, either one at a time or both at the same time. Try to reach forward toward the toes.