By Suzanne Bowen
There’s no better way to ease into your day than by stretching first thing in the morning. Wake up your body and brain with this 9-move sequence, designed to be done while you’re still in your PJs!
Side Bend Reach
Standing at a bed or other support, bring right leg in front of and across left. Shift into the right hip and reach right arm up and over head. Hold and take 2-3 deep inhales and exhales. Repeat on left.
***Stretches outer leg, hip, waist and shoulder
Holding a wall or window ledge with left arm, step forward with left leg and turn entire body to the right especially at the hips. Hold stretch for 4-6 deep breaths increasing stretch with the pivot at the hips.
***Stretches chest, front shoulder and front of arms. Repeat on the right.
Upper Back Reach
Standing in hip’s distance, clasp hands and round upper back keeping arms straight and active. Hold stretch for 2-3 deep breaths.
***Stretches upper back and back shoulders.
Back of Leg Stretch
Holding on to a support, bring back leg up onto a step or bench, increasing height as flexibility increases. Keep legs hips distance and parallel and keep back leg straight with back foot flexed. If you need to increase stretch, hinge at the hips keeping the back completely straight. Take 4-6 deep breaths. Repeat other side.
***Troubleshoot: If you have trouble keeping leg straight, lift back up and/or lower leg.
***Stretches entire back of the leg.
Standing Quad Stretch
Holding support, soften back knee and from a hips distance stance, bring front foot to front hand. Point front knee straight down to the floor and draw pelvis underneath you while keeping spine tall and crown of the head reaching to the ceiling. Take 4-6 deep breaths. Repeat other side.
***Stretches front of leg and top of foot.
Figure Four Hip Stretch
Lift front leg onto a bed or handrail. Square off hips and make sure front knee is outside of front shoulder. Keeping tailbone untucked, hinge forward at the hips. Breathe 4-6 deep breaths then change sides.
***If hips are tight, modify by bringing front leg onto back thigh and sitting back like you’re sitting in a chair.
***Stretches hips and outer thigh.
Standing Forward Bend
Standing in hips distance, hinge forward at the hips while keeping your knees soft. Allow your upper body to hang over your legs and clasp elbows. Hang and breathe 2-3 deep breaths while you gently shake your head “no” and even more gently nod your head “yes.” Release arms and change arm positions so that the opposite arm is on top. Take 2-3 more deep breaths in. To come up, pull in abs and gently round up one vertebra at a time.
***Troubleshoot: If your lower back or backs of legs are tight, forward bends can be very difficult. Rather than hanging your upper weight forward, hold onto a support like a bed or chair and little by little increase the range of motion with each day.
***Releases Lower Back
Wide Knee Child’s Pose
On a mat, bed or other soft surface, bring your knees slightly apart and hips to heels and reach out actively through your upper body and arms. Stretching through your arms as far as you can, release any tension and relax, breathing deeply up to one minute.
***Make this more comfortable by placing a small towel or pillow under your forehead or bend arms and place head on forearms.
***Releases lower back and shoulders.
Supine Rest Pose
Lie face up and bend knees. Relax any tension in your face and neck starting at the crown of the head and moving to eyes, jaw and shoulders. Allow arms to externally rotate (elbows face ceiling) and fingers to curl up. Begin breathing not into your belly or upper chest, but breathe into your lower ribcage as if you are trying to fill up lower ribs in all directions. Breathe in for as long as you breathe out. Become aware of your breath. Try to make sure your lower spine does not press into the floor/mat. Remain here as long as you would like but for no less than 3 minutes.
***Reduces stress by encouraging thoughtful breathing and relaxation.
Suzanne Bowen is fitness instructor and star of several workout DVDs including the recently released Barre Amped series. Find out more about Suzanne and her workouts on her website or her Facebook page.