1. Neck and Shoulder Stretch
We say start the morning slow, after all, you've just recently rolled out of bed. This neck and shoulder stretch is the best way to relieve the tension from the upper body, especially if you're a side sleeper and one side of your neck tends to be tense after sleep, which could actually even cause headaches.
This side rotation exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce tension and tiredness in the neck and shoulders, and best of all, you can do it while seated on the ground or even a chair. To do this exercise, sit in a comfortable position and follow these steps:
1. Start by sitting with both hands on the knees.
2. Raise the right hand overhead and place it on the left side of the head, over the left ear. Make sure your neck is straight, and start slowly stretching the head to the right until you feel a stretch in the left side of your neck and the left shoulder.
3. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then return to the initial position. Repeat on the other side. You can repeat this exercise up to 10 times in total.
2. Standing Quad Stretch
Now that your neck and shoulders are relaxed, let's move on to the legs. Don't skip this exercise, as this stretch will release the tension in the hip flexors, which is a common culprit behind lower back pain and stiffness in the legs and hips. It's also an important component of good posture and spinal health.
To do this stretch, stand up with your legs about shoulder-width apart. If you're worried that you might not be able to maintain balance on one leg, we recommend standing near a wall or chair to hold onto. Here are the steps of the exercise:
1. Stand up and hold onto a chair or wall with your right hand.
2. Bend the left knee and try to grab your left foot or ankle with the left hand. If this is difficult and you're not reaching your foot or ankle, you can wrap a yoga strap, a tie, or a regular scarf around your foot and hold the sides of the strap with your left hand, adjusting the length until you feel a stretch in the left thigh and hip. Hold for up to 15 seconds.
3. Switch sides and repeat. You can do up to 3 repetitions of this exercise.
3. Forward Bend
Now that you're warmed up, you can start doing deeper stretches, and the forward bend is one of the best choices for the morning. This is because this pose calms the brain, relieves fatigue, and stimulates the internal organs just before breakfast. It is an excellent choice if you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, too.
To complete the stretch, follow these steps:
1. Stand up with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Lift your hands up and stretch on an inhale. When you exhale, slowly start folding forward at your hip joints until your hands reach the floor (ideally). Don't worry if they don't, as this is the case with most people, and just rest your hands wherever they land - your thighs, knees, or shins.
2. If you have back problems, bend your knees gently until you feel no pressure on the lower back. The most important thing here is to keep the spine as straight and long as possible.
3. Stay for 5 deep breaths in this position, and then rise very slowly, as getting up too early may make you a bit dizzy. You can repeat this stretch 2-3 times.
4. Donkey Kicks
With this exercise, you'll stretch your legs and improve the mobility of the spine even more. In the long run, this exercise will improve your posture and strengthen your core, glutes, and thigh muscles, too. To complete the exercise, follow these steps:
1. Start on all fours on a mat or carpet. If you have knee problems, place a towel or blanket to cushion the knees.
2. Place your hands directly under your shoulders, and knees under your hips.
3. Lift one of the knees slowly, but steadily, keeping the leg either bent or straight. Try to distribute the weight evenly throughout the body when your leg is raised, push down on the ground with your hands to make lifting the leg easier.
4. Lower the knee and return to the initial position. Switch legs, and repeat up to 5 times on each side in total.
5. Downward-Facing Dog
We've nearly made it to the end, just 2 more stretches left. This is the downward dog, a truly iconic yoga pose that's widely appreciated for its ability to resets the nervous system and energize the entire body. This position is also known to alleviate sciatica pain and relieve fatigue, so it's especially beneficial for those who wake up tired or have lower back pain. The downward dog is a full-body stretch, awakening, and stretching most of your muscles. Here's how to do it:
1. Start on all fours. Then start raising your knees and hips, pushing your bum up and gripping the mat firmly with your hands. As in the forward bend stretch, the focus here is to straighten and lengthen your spine, so don't worry if your legs aren't straight or your heels don't touch the ground.
2. Stay in this position for 5 breaths, keeping your hands straight and move your shoulder blades down to further straighten the back. Then slowly lower your body back down, bending in the knees, and get back to all fours. Repeat up to 3 times.
6. Child's Pose
After the deep stretching you've done, you deserve a pleasant and calming rest, which is exactly what this last position is. Child's pose is also borrowed from yoga, and it's known for being the ultimate resting and calming position, and a gentle stretch for the hips and spine. You can stay in this position as long as it feels comfortable. Here's how to do the child's pose:
1. Begin on all fours, knees aligned under the hips, and hands aligned under the shoulders.
2. Take your buttocks back until they reach the heels, arms stretched out straight as if in a prayer position.
3. Simply rest here, with your forehead touching the ground or even a pillow if you want. You can also put a pillow or yoga block underneath your buttocks if you feel tension in the lower back. Breathe deeply and stay in this position as long as you'd like.
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