There are many benefits to stretching your muscles, from increasing flexibility to helping clear your mind.
For those who sit at a desk all day, stretching can also help improve your posture and keep you from slouching over your keyboard.
Stretching is a low-impact activity that's safe for most people. But it's important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your stretches.
It's also critical to stretch correctly — bad stretching techniques can make back pain worse and lead to other injuries. Below are some simple stretches you can try.
Downward Facing Dog
Begin on all fours and lift your knees off the ground, lengthening your spine as you tuck your toes. Use the leverage to extend your legs into the air. Once here, your body should make a “V” shape. Press into the hands and feet, lengthening the spine and pulling the pelvis towards the ceiling to reach downward facing dog.
This pose stimulates blood flow and helps to straighten and align the spine by opening the shoulders and chest. The pose strengthens the shoulders, arms, and midsection, correcting bad posture.
To get into a High Plank, begin on all fours, with your toes flexed on the floor. Place your hands slightly wider and directly beneath your shoulders, lifting off the floor into a push-up position. Keep your pelvis tucked, with tension in the shoulders and hips as you engage your core. Tuck your chin, squeezing your quads and glutes.
There are several pose variations to choose from with High Planks, such as side plank and forearm plank. High plank activates and strengthens the core, shoulders, legs, and lower back muscles. This increases your stability and improves posture.
Standing Forward Fold
This stretch begins in a standing position, with feet hip-width apart and all four corners of the foot grounded to the floor. Fold forward and hinge from the hip joints with a flat back, reaching your fingertips to the floor. Keep your head lifted and shoulder blades down and back to maximize the stretch.
This simple pose improves posture by rooting the feet and distributing weight evenly, resulting in improved equilibrium. The pose will also relieve back and neck tension and increase hip flexibility, helping to strengthen and release tension throughout the entire body.
Active Child's Pose
Child’s Pose is reached by resting on your knees with your buttocks against your heels. From here, lower your upper body to your thighs, and extend your arms out in front of you with palms facing downward. With big toes touching and knees spread wide enough for your torso to lower between the thighs, rest your forehead to the ground and relax your neck. You activate muscles that improve posture by dropping and tucking your hips onto your heels.
This pose actively stretches and strengthens the shoulders, core, and lower back. Lengthening and stretching the spine promotes good posture.
The Cat-Cow stretch starts in an all-fours position with your toes flexed. Slowly begin to round your spine and raise your belly button, tucking your chin and holding the position on a deep inhale. On an exhale, let your belly slowly drop, arching your back and raising your head while squeezing your shoulder blades. Hold this pose for a breath, and repeat the sequence for the full stretch.
This pose makes a useful active backstretch, improving your posture by strengthening muscles throughout the back.
Sitting at a desk for the entire workday can wreak havoc on your posture and back muscles. But with a few essential stretches that increase mobility and develop strength in the right muscles, you can correct bad posture and combat back pain.
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