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April 7, 2020

Beat Your Stress with a 15-Minute Self Stretch


In times of uncertainty, stress can not only be prominent, but overwhelming. Everyone is entitled to their own coping mechanisms, whatever they may be. It’s OK to not bake every night, partake in workouts or even move from your bed.

If you’re looking for an outlet to help relieve stress that doesn’t require an intense amount of effort, take 15 minutes to stretch.

According to Jaime Longval, M.S., a certified strength and conditioning specialist at Brown University and the Miriam Hospital Centers for Behavioral and Preventative Medicine in Providence, R.I., “stretching is an effective strategy to aid in the relief of stress. It lengthens the muscles to relieve tension.”

Pamela Kalechofsky, one of Stretch Relief’s certified stretch therapists, and yoga instructor, shared her favorite stretches that help her relieve stress:

Neck Stretches really help to open up the neck. You can release tension from every angle, sides, back and front. I carry a lot of stress in my neck so moving my head and neck around as much and as often as possible is a great release and reminder to keep doing it! 

Stretching the neck side to side (tilting it towards one ear first, holding it for about 8 seconds, taking a nice deep inhale for 4 & exhale for 4, then switching sides). Release the stretch & switch sides. You can do it a second time, going back to the 1st side, then 2nd. Then the 3rd time you can do it the same way again or perhaps let your hand give a very gentle assist.

Then tilt the head down, bringing the chin towards the chest. Do the same breathing technique. If it’s not stressful on the body/neck, drop the head back but be mindful to relax the shoulders & try not to hold any stress. Let all the tension go.

We spend so much time looking down this is a great counter. BUT if you have any neck injuries or feel pain, do not do this. Repeat 3x (chin to chest, then head back) but only if you’re comfortable. If it feels better to move through this (down & back slowly) rather than holding each directly for 8 seconds, do that instead. Always listen to your body & it’s needs.

Shoulder stretches are very “freeing.” They release tension in the shoulders & into the upper back and give me the feeling that I am taking my stress & completely letting it go! I can just feel it melting away.

I like to start with a few gentle shoulder circles back & then forward first to help release any tension & open the body up. Focus on your breathing, imagine stress melting away, & try to make the movement smooth. You can even roll one shoulder at a time if it feels good.

From there take your right arm across your body straight, & use your left arm, hooking above your right elbow & pull it towards your chest to give your right arm a stretch. Use the breathing technique described previously. Switch arms.

Wrap both arms around yourself in a big hug & give a few gentle twists side to side to loosen up the back

If you have space, swing your arms in big circles like they are airplane wings!! Forward and back. If you don’t have space, place your hands on your shoulders & try swinging just the elbows.

Place the right hand behind the back so the elbow is facing up. Hold or give an assisted stretch with the left hand. Repeat both sides. Don’t forget the breath!

Twisting is so healthy for digestion & for the integrity & mobility of the spine. When I twist & feel that wringing out feeling of my spine it’s like wringing the stress right out of my back, like wringing the water from a wet towel or piece of clothes. Just get it out of there! 

Lift up tall. Be sure you are sitting on your sits bones (the 2 bony protrusions on the bottom of your seat). Engage your core, bring your shoulders over your hips, your ears over your shoulders, & lift the crown of your head to the ceiling. Place your right hand behind you, trying to create a “2nd spine”, if it feels comfortable.

Use the left hand to guide your twist right. Keep your feet on the earth & your lower body facing forward. Try to twist from your middle (thoracic) spine 1st, not from your neck by just looking. Take an inhale & on your exhale slowly move into your twist. Try to take at least 3 breaths here before switching sides. Once you release back to center you can take a gentle gold forward to “counter” your twist if it feels good for you. Repeat this exercise only right & left once, unless you have other preferences. Do not twist if you have back restrictions / injuries.

The cat/mow motion opens up the spine so much. It’s a full body movement, like a wonderful massage for the whole upper body, & everyone knows a massage certainly relieves stress!

I love to feel the articulation of each vertebrae. It truly helps knock stress out of my body when I breathe with these movements & really feel the motion of my body

Place palms on your knees. Round your spine, hollowing out the belly, pulling it in to create your deepest curve, letting the head drop in (cat spine). Then reverse, arching as much as feels comfortable, pushing the belly forward, letting the head drop back, feeling the pelvis tilt back (cow spine), & really feel the articulation of the spine as you move through these 2 different spinal movements. Follow the breath. Repeat as many times as feels good. Move slowly & with intention. Be careful rounding & arching the spine if you have back restrictions / injuries.

 

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