By Ekaterina Murphy, Health Coach & Fitness Nutritionist (@healthbyekat)
Restorative daily stretching is so important because it provides the physical and mental balance that prevents stress and anxiety. The past few months have been extremely stressful and emotional. To help quiet the mind and just let go of your tensions and worries for a few moments, I wanted to share a sequence that will put you at ease and slow everything down.
Hold each pose for 30 - 60 seconds (whichever feels best for you) for full effect and breathe deeply but gently with your eyes closed.
#1 Overhead Shoulder Stretch
Stiff, tight shoulders are one of the most common complaints among all people today, especially anyone who spends extended amounts of time slumped at a desk or sitting behind a steering wheel. This position causes our upper back to round forward, our chest to tighten, and shoulders to lift and compress, all leading to very poor posture and eventual shoulder pain and tightness. This static stretch relieves tightness along the top of your shoulder.
- Stand with your right shoulder about a foot away from the wall.
- Reach your right arm over your head and place your hand on the wall. Your arm should be straight.
- Gently lean into the wall with your right shoulder until you feel a stretch through the top of the shoulder.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
#2 Wall Down Dog
This pose stretches the entire spine, along with directly connected areas such as arms, glutes, and hips. It also promotes core strength, which is essential for back health. It calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression at the same time as it helps energize the body.
- Stand facing a wall. Bend at the hips and place your hands on the wall a little higher than in line with your hips.
- Walk your feet back until your body comes to an L-shape. Press your palms firmly into the wall and slowly lower your chest towards the ground to feel a stretch.
- Hold and breathe into the chest and shoulders.
#3 Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly stretching the muscles of the back torso. This pose centers, calms, and soothes the brain, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress.
- Begin on your hands and knees.
- Spread your knees as wide as your mat while keeping your big toes touching towards the back of your mat. Exhale and rest your buttocks on your heels.
- Sit up straight and lengthen your spine up through the crown of your head.
- On an exhalation, bow forward, dropping your torso between your thighs. Your heart and chest should rest between your thighs. Allow your forehead to settle onto the floor.
- Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down. Press back slightly with your hands to keep your buttocks in contact with your heels. Lengthen from your hips to your armpits, and then extend even further through your fingertips. Completely relax your elbows.
#4 Child’s Pose Side Stretch
By simply changing the position of the arms, the Child’s Pose will offer a delicious side stretch. This stretch reverses the effects of poor posture by opening up the hips, lower back, lats, and shoulders.
- Once in Child’s Pose, extend the left arm off the mat to the left.
- Keeping the right arm extended, bring it over to the left as close to the left arm as possible.
- While pushing the hands into the floor on the left, gently push the hips to the right for a stretch along the whole right side.
- Be sure to repeat on the opposite side.
#5 Cat / Cow Pose
While this stretch may look “easy,” it is a powerful pose for the mind. The breath synchronized movement increases coordination, and focus. This pose is associated with increased emotional balance and stability of the mind. Lastly, lengthening the spine improves circulation to the discs between the vertebrae, which in turn relieves stress from the back and calms the mind and nervous system.
- Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.
- Begin by moving into Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest.
- Broaden across your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
- Next, move into Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back.
- Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don't force your chin to your chest.
- Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.
- Repeat 5-20 times. In a phase that feels good for you.
#6 Supine Twist
Twists are a great way to decompress and squeeze out the anxiety and frustrations of your day — just like wringing out a towel. They stimulate and detoxify the organs of your torso. If you’ve ever felt worn out at the end of a workday or after a weekend of over-indulgence.The act of twisting the body helps purify every layer of your being. Internal and external. Mind and body.
- Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest, then drop both knees over to one side as you twist your torso in the opposite direction.
- Try to keep your knees and hips in line with each other as you draw them toward the floor, and keep your chest as square to the ceiling ( or sky ) as you can.
- Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
#7 Reclining Bound Angle
This pose is one of the most relaxing and restorative poses. It is great to ease the back, hips and groins. Women, especially, tend to store the body’s stress and muscle tension in the hips.
- Lie on the back with the soles of the feet on the mat and the knees pointing toward the sky.
- Place the heels as close to the groin as comfortably possible. Press the tailbone into the ground.
- While exhaling, open the knees and let them gently fall toward the floor using the hands on the outside of the thighs to support the motion.
- Bring the soles of the feet together and place the arms on the mat alongside the body with the palms facing upward or place arms above your head, whichever feels more comfortable.
- Let gravity do the work of relaxing your legs to slowly bring them closer to the floor. You can rock your sacrum gently from side to side to loosen the groins, alternating between letting one knee and then the other come closer to the floor.
#8 Supine Pigeon (using the wall)
This pose relieves stiffness in the outer hips and lower back, stretches and opens the outer hips and increases the range of motion in the lower body. It also improves circulation throughout the legs, hips, and back. This twist also causes your mind to naturally turn inward, which helps calm your thoughts, relieve stress, and soothe anxiety. Supine Pigeon increases blood flow to the pelvis and surrounding organs, which helps reduce digestive discomforts and menstrual pain in women.
- Bring your mat to the wall and begin by lying on your back with your legs extended up the wall. Leave about 1′ of space between your buttocks and the wall.
- Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet flat on the wall. Separate your feet so they are hip width apart and the thighs are parallel to one another.
- Straighten your left leg upward, extending your heel toward the ceiling. Then bend your left knee and cross your left ankle over your right knee. Bring your left, outer ankle to the outside of your right knee so your foot hovers in the air. Then flex your left foot, pressing through your heel while simultaneously pulling your toes back toward the left.
- On an exhalation, draw your right knee in toward your chest. Slide your left hand and forearm through the space between your legs and clasp both hands around the back of your right leg’s thigh. If it is possible for you, hold onto your shin, instead.
- Keep your back flat on the mat. Release your shoulder blades down toward your waist. Broaden across your collarbones.
- Draw your tailbone and sacrum down toward the mat to lengthen the spine even more.
- Tuck your chin softly and close your eyes. Keep your breath smooth and even.
- With an exhalation, release your leg and place your right foot on the floor. Extend your left leg straight up to the ceiling again, and then bend your knee and place your left foot on the floor. Repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same amount of time.
#9 Legs up the wall
Legs Up the Wall is a rejuvenating pose that brings relief to the legs, feet, spine, and nervous system. It is a gentle way to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation and renewal. Other benefits of this pose include the relief of: Anxiety, Headaches, Insomnia, Depression, Digestive problems, Arthritis and Menstrual cramps.
There are two ways to get into this pose. Using props as a supported pose, or without props. Both options will provide the same benefits, but the supported version may be more relaxing for some people. Both versions require a wall or sturdy door upon which you can rest your legs.
- If you are practicing the supported version, set a pillow on the floor against the wall.
- Begin the pose by sitting with your left side against the wall. Your lower back should rest against the pillow, if you’re using one.
- Gently turn your body to the left and bring your legs up onto the wall. If you are using a pillow, shift your lower back onto it before bringing your legs up the wall. Use your hands for balance as you shift your weight.
- Lower your back to the floor and lie down. Rest your shoulders and head on the floor.
- Shift your weight from side-to-side and scoot your buttocks close to the wall. Let your arms rest open at your sides.
- Close your eyes, breathing with awareness.
- To release, slowly push yourself away from the wall and slide your legs down to the right side. Use your hands to help press yourself back up into a seated position.
I hope that you enjoy this restorative sequence! Repeat this daily to relax and ease your mind.