Cardio: check. Strength training: check. Stretching—uncheck. If you tend to skip the flexibility portion of your workout, you’re not alone. In an attempt to squeeze exercise into an already busy schedule, many people forego this critical component of an overall fitness program.
The good news is you can still benefit from a short stretching routine, even if it’s just a few minutes each morning. “Incorporating a morning stretch session into your daily routine can help you achieve better health in a number of ways,” Claire Grieve, a celebrity yoga specialist and stretch therapist, explains.
Stretching in the morning can help you release tension and stress buildup before you head into your day. Focusing on tight muscles will also help keep your body aligned, which Grieve says will both prevent injury and improve your posture. It can also increase blood flow to your muscles.
Plus, stretching in the morning allows you a few moments to breathe deeply before you start your day. “This flow of oxygen will give you a rush of natural energy that is better than caffeine,” explains Grieve.
Yoga stretching routine
Here, Grieve shares five yoga moves you can incorporate into your morning routine.
Sit on the floor with your knees wide and your toes touching. Lower your belly between your thighs and rest your forehead on the floor. Extend your arms, facing your palms down, and lengthen from your hips through your fingertips. Breathe gently in this pose and hold anywhere from one to five minutes.
Start on all fours. Breathe in, arching your spine toward the ceiling, tuck your chin and your tailbone toward your chest. Exhale, arch your back, and lift your tailbone and head toward the sky as you relax your belly to the floor. Do this continuously for about 60 seconds.
Reclined Big Toe
Extend one leg on the floor, pressing your leg down into the ground. Make sure to keep your hip grounded on the floor. Lift the other leg from your toe, calf or hamstring, and pull toward your face. Don’t be afraid to use a strap if you need to. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Change legs and repeat.
To do: Start on your knees with your shins on the ground. Place your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointed to the ground and gently arch back, extending your heart to the sky. In the full expression, your hands will reach your heels. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat.
Low Lunge with a twist
From a Low Lunge, place your hands in Prayer position at heart center, and gently twist your torso open toward your right leg. Hook your left elbow over your right knee, using it as lever to open your torso. To take the twist deeper, reach your right arm toward the sky, gaze up toward your fingertips and hold for five breaths. Do this pose equally on both sides.
Alternative morning stretching routine
If you’re looking for a different stretching routine or one you can alternate with the five yoga moves from Grieve, try these moves Corey Grenz, a program specialist at Life Time, shared with SheKnows. He includes six stretches you can do in the morning to improve your posture and feel better throughout the day.
Pec wall stretch
Find the corner of a room. Bring your arm to a 90-degree angle. Gently turn your body until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and change arms.
Stability ball lat stretch
Get into a kneeling position. Place your hands on the stability ball (or on the edge of a chair). Gently extend your arms, arch your back, and sink your body toward the floor. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Foam roller stretch
Lay on a foam roller with your head on one end and your glutes/tail on the other. Reach your arms out to the side, and let them hang down. Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
Kneeling hip-flexor stretch
Kneel on one knee. Lean forward slightly, and tuck your tail under so you feel the stretch in the leg that is touching the floor. You can also bring your arm up over your head and reach to the opposite side. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and then change sides. If you have a wood floor, just fold a towel and place it under the knee you are kneeling on.
While standing, take one foot off the floor and bend the knee so you can grab the foot with your hand. Try to have your heel touch your glutes. You should feel this stretch in the quad or thigh muscle. Hold this stretch for 30 to 45 seconds.
Calf stretch in a lunge position
Start in a semi-lunge position. Press your back heel into the floor. Hold this stretch for 30 to 45 seconds. Change legs and repeat. When doing this stretch, the key is to make sure you squeeze the glute on the back leg.
So, tomorrow morning, why not start your day with a few stretches—it’ll set you up for the rest of the day.
Originally posted on SheKnows.