Stretching

It’s not uncommon for people to stretch by order of major body areas. For instance, start with the neck and work one’s way downward through the shoulders, waist, legs, etc. To that end, these stretches are not sorted alphabetically, but are sorted by body area.

Standing Stretches

These are stretches that can be done while standing.

Neck

  • Neck rotation – rotate your neck in a circular motion, first clockwise then counterclockwise
  • Neck stretch – stretch your neck to each side, then to the front and back; you can use your hands to pull or push on the head to extend the stretch

Shoulders

  • Shoulder rotation – bend your arms so that your fists are near your shoulders and rotate your arms, like flapping in circles, first clockwise then counterclockwise
  • Shoulder stretch – hold one arm straight and pull your straight arm into your upper chest using the other arm; people often place the straight arm into the crux of the elbow of the assisting arm to help pull the straight arm deeper into the chest

Back

  • RISKY STRETCH: if you’re prone to back problems, avoid this stretch. Backward stretch – with your legs about one shoulder-width apart, hands on hips, bend as far backward as possible, looking backward over your head
  • Partner back stretch – stand back-to-back with a partner, elbows interlocked; take turns lifting one another off the floor by bending forward; this can also be done as a sitting stretch

Waist

  • Side stretch – with your legs about one shoulder-width apart, bend your waist first to one side then to the other; as you bend left, raise your right arm over your head, and vice versa
  • Windmill – stand with your legs spread about two shoulder-widths apart, stretch your left hand down to your right foot, then your right hand down to your left foot
  • Waist rotations – with your legs about one shoulder-width apart, hands on your hips, rotate your waist in a circular motion, first clockwise then counterclockwise
  • RISKY STRETCH: twist slowly, don’t hurl your body into hard rotations. Upper body twist – with your legs about one shoulder-width apart, twist your body as much as possible so that you’re looking first over one shoulder, then the other

Upper Legs

  • RISKY STRETCH: if you’re prone to back problems, this stretch is better done while sitting. Standing hamstring stretch / toe-touching – bend down and touch your toes with your legs straight, place the palms of your hands on the mat if possible; it’s okay to do this with your feet shoulder-width apart rather than with feet touching, if you’d rather
  • Short leg stretch – stand with your feet about two shoulder-widths apart, turn one foot to the side and turn your upper body in that direction, then bend down to touch that toe
  • Long leg stretch – extend one foot all the way to your side, leg straight, and drop your body down so that you’re squatting on the heel of the other foot
  • Partner leg strech – place one foot on your partner’s shoulder, leg straight, while your partner slowly stands higher and higher
  • Center split – spread your legs as far apart as you can while standing, it’s okay to place your hands on the floor to stabilize yourself, but try to keep your hips back in the same line as your feet
  • Forward split – place one foot as far forward as possible and the other leg as far back as possible

Knees

  • Knee bends – place your feet about one shoulder-width apart, hands on your knees, and bend your knees to squat on your heels then return to standing
  • Knee rotations – place your feet together, hands on your knees, and rotate your knees in a small circular motion, first one way then the other

Sitting Stretches

These are stretches that are done while sitting on the ground.

Upper Legs

  • Sitting hamstring stretch / toe-touching – sit with your legs out in front of you, feet touching; touch your toes
  • RISKY STRETCH: if you’re prone to knee problems, consider doing this stretch with your rear leg bent in front of you rather than behind. Hurdler’s stretch – sit with one leg bent behind you, the other leg straight in front of you; try to put your nose on the knee of the straight leg
  • Extended leg stretch – sit with one leg out in front of you, grab the other foot, lean back on one elbow and lift your foot straight into the air; straighten your leg while holding the foot, pull the straightened leg as far back as you can
  • Butterfly, or Lotus Press – sit with your legs spread but bent so that your feet are touching each other right in front of your groin; grip your feet or ankles with your hands and push your knees downward, try to touch your nose to the floor
  • Center split – spread your legs apart as far as you can while sitting, reach forward down the center and try to put your nose on the mat
  • Side split – spread your legs apart as far as you can while sitting, try to touch your nose to first one knee then the other
  • RISKY STRETCH: make sure you’re working with a partner who understands your limits. Partner split – you and your partner face each other while doing sitting splits, grab each others wrists and take turns pulling each other forward

Ankles

  • Ankle rotation – sit on the floor with one leg straight out in front of you, bend the other leg so that the ankle is on your straight knee; hold your foot in your hand and rotate the ankle in small circular motions, first clockwise then counterclockwise

Prone Stretches

These are stretches done while lying down.

While on Your Stomach

  • Up dog – lay on your stomach, use your arms to lift your shoulders off the floor, arching your back, and look at the sky
  • Cat stretch – lift yourself onto your hands and knees, then arch your back upward
  • Cow stretch – lift yourself onto your hands and knees, then arch your back downward
  • Shoulder stretch – lift yourself onto your hands and knees, then move your hips backward and try to put your shoulders on the floor while holding your arms straight out in front of you
  • Back and abdomen stretch – lay on your stomach, bend your legs upward and grab your ankles, pull your ankles back to your shoulders while arching your back upward
  • Body rock – same as a Back and Abdomen Stretch, but rock back and forth while holding your ankles and arching your back

While on Your Back

  • Back arch or Crab stretch – lay on your back, legs bent so your feet are flat on the floor, hands above your head flat on the floor so that the fingers are pointed toward your shoulder, then left your body off the floor so that your body forms an arch
  • RISKY STRETCH: if you’re prone to back problems, this is a stretch to avoid. Body tuck or Yoga plough– lay on your back, left your legs into the air and keep rotating them back so that your feet wind up behind your head, knees by your ears; you’ll want to use your hand and elbows to help lift your hips into the air

 

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