10 top stretches after a long journey or on your hols...
We all relish a long relaxing holiday and some much needed rest. Unfortunately travelling to the airport, waiting in departures and then a cramped flight are a perfect recipe for feeling stiff, achey and wound up just when we most want to unwind. Here are some tips to release that tightness ready to start your holiday refreshed.
Always remember to start by doing some warm up exercises, for example some gentle shoulder rolls, hip circles, small knee bends, easy marching and little lunges to ensure you warm the large muscle groups.
1. Partial or Full Roll Down
Standing with your feet facing forward in line with hips & shoulders and your spine stacked, slowly tuck your chin under and gradually peel your vertebrae (spine) forward, starting at the neck bones, working down to the upper back, mid back, lower back and so forth. Allowing the shoulders to naturally drop forward, softening the knees if you have tight hamstrings. Do the reverse as you roll back up taking care to re-stack the spine one vertebrae at a time. A couple of roll downs will help to loosen up the spine & warm up all the muscles.
2. Cat Cow
Move onto all fours on your mat & ensure your knees, hips, shoulders & wrists are totally aligned to ensure balanced weight distribution over the joints. Start in Cow Position: Inhale as you drop your tummy button towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, elongate the neck line, widen your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders away from your ears. Continue the flow into Cat Position: As you exhale, draw your umbilicus into your spine and round your back toward the ceiling, drawing the shoulders up to the ceiling, creating a beautiful arching Cat shape. You can flow between both positions between 5-16 times.
3. Thread the needle
Return to All Fours position, take one hand and tuck under the armpit of the other, drawing the shoulder blade down towards the mat, sinking the bottom down to the feet allowing a lovely transverse rotation of the lumbar & thoracic spine also including an awesome shoulder release. Hold for a count of 15 and repeat on the other side.
Returning to All Fours position having rechecked your correct alignment, inhale, then exhale as you extend one arm out in front, at the same time extend the opposite leg out & away. Aim to keep both limbs in line with the ground & avoid arching your lower back. It helps to focus on buttock & abdominal activation to ensure you lower back remains strong & stable.
Repeat on the other side. Build from 6-16 reps depending on your skill & balance.
If you find this is way too tricky or unstable, start with opposite toe & finger taps out to the front instead, building to full superman as you get stronger & less wobbly.
5. Child's Pose
From All fours, sink your bottom down towards your heels, extend your palms forwards towards the front of the mat, lengthening through the whole length of the spine. Relax there for 30 seconds. If you have enough flexibility in your hips you can repeat with the knees slightly wider apart.
Listen to your body! Only do what feels comfortable. Be careful with your knees & hips.
6. Swan Prep or Seal Stretch
Now move to fully lie on the mat facing down. Keep your arms tucked into your body as you bend your elbows to bring your thumbs in line with shoulders. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. The legs are relaxed & hip distance apart.
Engage your stomach & buttock muscles, press into the hands, peeling the chest off the mat straightening the arms. Only lift the chest as far as is comfortable for you. Remember to inhale & lengthen the spine as you go. Repeat 3-5 times using an even, flowing breath to support the movement.
7. Shoulder Bridge
Moving onto your back with knees bent- recheck your body position to ensure your heels & knees are open and in line with buttocks & shoulders- keeping a neutral pelvis. Start with a pelvic tilt by rolling the pelvis downwards towards the mat, pressing the lower back towards the mat and in a flowing motion lift the hips to the ceiling, peeling the spine off the mat until you reach the shoulder blades. Don't over-arch the back! You're looking for strength & stability in the tummy muscles. Then slowly "unpeel" the spine back down to the mat one vertebrae at a time - upper back, mid back then lower back - ensuring you keep the buttocks "switched on" at all times.
8. Knee Drop Stretch
Return to bent knees with neutral spine position and arms out wide. Keeping the feet on the mat, carefully drop the knees from one side to the other allowing the hips to open & muscles to lengthen. Repeat on each side 5-8 times.
9. Downward Facing Dog (optional)
Roll onto your front & repeat your Childs Pose. From Child's Pose, curl your toes under and press your bottom up up and back into Downward-Facing Dog. With your hands shoulder-width apart lengthen and straighten your arms remembering to keep your feet hip distance apart and the outside edges of your feet parallel to one another. If you have high hamstrings soften the knees if not straighten & press through the heels. Lift the forearms up and away from the mat and press the shoulder blades gently into your back.
10. Finish by walking the hands back towards the feet & resetting ready to roll back up to standing, as before.
Disclaimer. This blog information is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with your doctor or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk. As with all exercise: work within your individual limits. Listen to your body & only do what is comfortable for you.