Imagine you have a thick pencil and pen stack that you carry around with you every day.
Usually, you transport them loosely in the bottom of your bag, but one day you decide you are done fishing around for them amidst your bag’s other scattered contents. You buy some rubber bands at the store, and try to wrap a brand new one around your large fistful of stray writing utensils.
It’s hard, right? The band is stiff and tight, lacking the stretch and elasticity that your large pen and pencil fistful requires for proper containment.
Now imagine that the pencil and pen fistful is the day ahead of you, and the brand new rubber band is you in the morning, just waking up.
When you first wake up, your body can be a little bit stiff, and your blood is not flowing yet because you just spent the whole night resting. When you try to abruptly jumpstart the day ahead of you without getting your blood flowing a little bit and awakening your body, it is like you are trying to stretch a stiff rubber band over an incredibly large surface area.
Just as you will get the best results with your rubber band if you gradually stretch it out farther and farther, you will give your body a better chance at effectively jumpstarting the day ahead of you with a few morning stretches to loosen up.
Let’s look at everything you need to know about a morning stretching routine with Able. All you need is a yoga mat, rug, or another soft surface to stretch on and a few minutes in the morning. If you spend just a few minutes each day stretching, even if it’s only one or two stretches a day, your dynamic morning habit can make a huge difference in how the rest of your day goes. The change starts today! Feel better from now on and for good with these ideas.
Spending just a few minutes with a stretch routine each morning can make a huge difference in how you mentally and physically take on the day. Stretching can mitigate pain and stress, boost your energy, and fill you with confidence to help you consistently perform better throughout the day.
For one thing, stretching helps develop flexibility, your body’s capability to fully move your muscles and joints through their motion ranges. Regular, daily stretching elongates your muscles to yield more flexibility; more flexibility, in turn, yields successful performance when moving and staying active.
Flexibility is not the only benefit that stretching affords your body. Stretching brings many more advantages to the table, including an affinity to engage in directed movements, mental and physical relaxation, and increased bodily awareness.
Stretching can also reduce your propensity for injury, muscle soreness, body stiffness, and tension.
Many fibers comprise a muscle, and when you stretch or elongate a muscle, its component fibers become longer. The more fibers you stretch, the more your muscle elongates.
Each time you stretch, your muscles elongate a little bit more, eliminating future tightness to make the next stretch even easier. With practice and consistency, your muscle memory will quite literally kick in, and you will be able to stretch farther and acquire more flexibility.
You can thus devote a few minutes each day to stretching to develop a consistent routine that produces the right benefits and results for your mind, body, and overall health. Stretching is a gradual process that requires patience, concentration, and calmness to practice correct techniques that prevent injuries.
There is no single stretch that answers all flexibility and motion ranges, and there is no single way to stretch to see health benefits.
However, there are proper general techniques that you should follow to enhance stretch efficacy and reduce injury risks. For one thing, breath and breath timing is essential in yielding stretch benefits.
When you stretch, make sure that you control your breath to be deep and rhythmic; your inhales and exhales should be gradual. These practices help you feel more relaxed and get your blood flowing to better eliminate lactic acid buildup that might lead to muscle soreness.
Close your eyes, let your body go loose, and slowly inhale through your nose as you fill your abdomen with breath. Then, gradually begin to lean farther into your stretch as you exhale.
Another helpful technique that optimizes stretch benefits involves the order in which you perform different stretches. First, you should try to stretch auxiliary muscles that you intend to be the primary target for future stretches.
For example, if you want to stretch your hamstrings, these stretches will also utilize your calves, buttocks, and lower back and auxiliary, or supporting, muscle groups. As such, you may want to stretch your lower back, buttocks, and calves first, and then stretch your hamstrings.
In general, you should stretch your upper and lower back muscles first, and then your sides and buttocks. Next, you should stretch your calves, then your groin and hamstrings, respectively. Finally, stretch your quads, and, last but not least, your arms.
There is no universal consensus as to how long to hold each stretch, but you should aim to hold each stretch for at least fifteen to twenty seconds for the most effective results.
Below, Able organizes a few favorite morning stretches in such an order that will help you achieve optimal results for a kinder, more energized day.
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly breathe in. Raise your hands up and outward above your head as you finish your inhale.
When you exhale, gradually bend down, folding at your hip (avoid sharply bending your waist or hunching over) while keeping your legs straight and your knees unbent. Let your hands fall at the farthest point that you can comfortably reach, whether your knees, shins, or feet.
Take five to ten deep, slow breaths as you stretch, lengthening your core and spine when you breathe in, and stretching out your bend when you breathe out.
Sit criss-cross applesauce and put your left hand on your right knee. Twist your upper body to the right, such that your left shoulder crosses to your right side, and you can look behind your right shoulder.
Slowly twist back to the center to align your shoulders, take a deep breath, and repeat this stretch on your other side.
Lower yourself from your criss-cross applesauce position onto all fours such that you sit on your feet with your knees bent. Make sure that your knees are right under your hips, inhale, and stretch your arms out in front of you on the floor.
When you exhale, tuck your chin into your chest as your forehead lightly grazes the ground, and your arms stretch farther out in front of you.
Push yourself up from your child’s pose onto all fours. Make sure that you position yourself so that your shoulders align over your wrists and your hips align over your knees. Take a deep breath in, and sag your belly such that your back curves concavely and you look like a cow.
Take a deep breath out, press your palms firmly into the ground, and arch your back to mimic a cat’s steeply arched back. Alternate arching your back upward and downward, and repeat this paired motion several times to the rhythm of your deep breaths. Maintain your gaze upward; do not move your shoulders, only your back and belly.
Slowly drop from all fours to lie on your right side. Your legs should fully extend as you stretch your body outward, and your right leg should rest stacked on top of your left leg. While holding a tight core, slowly raise your body while still resting on one side, such that you lift your hips and knees off of the ground to come into a side plank during your exhale on the breath.
Make sure your body stays straight in your raised side position, and hold yourself upward as you stretch your side out farther through several breath cycles. Switch sides and perform the same routine with your left side next.
Rotate from your side back onto all fours in a regular plank position. Then, press your hands into the carpet and push your lower body backward and upward, so you raise your hips while your legs stay straight.
Slowly breathe in and out five times, then hold this pose but alternate in gently lifting one foot and then the other off the ground for five more breaths.
Bring your right knee towards your chest from your downward dog stretch, and slowly lower your body until your right leg touches the ground on your inhale. Your shin should be directly behind and parallel with your wrist. At the same time, fully extend your still straightened left leg behind you. Make sure that your hips remain steady so that your body stays in a straight line; do not let your center of mass favor one side or another.
Next, exhale as you extend your arms out in front of you, with your forehead lightly resting on the carpet just as in the child’s pose. Stretch your arms out farther in front of you on each exhale in your breath cycle, and hold this pose for several cycles before you raise your body back to a downward dog position and switch sides.
From a downward dog stretch, proceed into a front lunge, such that you bend your right knee first and extend your left leg straight behind you. Using your left foot to push off, slowly rise to a standing position and raise your arms above your head before bending your right knee again and extending your left leg to sink back into your original pose.
Make sure that your bent knee does not cross over your ankle, and use the sinking action when you transition from standing with your arms raised back into lunging as an opportunity to deepen your stretch and draw out your exhale. Push off and sink back into this pose several times before you switch sides such that you bend your left knee and extend your right leg straight behind you.
From your warrior stretch, push off your back leg into a standing position. Remain standing and slowly bend one of your knees back. Slightly raise your leg off the ground and grab your ankle with your hand, pulling your ankle into your buttocks as you bend your knee as deeply as you comfortably can. Hold this knee bend for around thirty seconds before switching sides.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise one arm over your head. Bend your elbow and point your hand behind your back downward, aiming your fingertips towards your shoulder blade.
Make sure that your head stays straight. You may gently take your other arm and pull your bent elbow back away from your body to make this stretch more challenging. Hold this position for about twenty seconds before you switch arms.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend one arm straight out in front of you. Slowly move that arm to the side such that it extends across your chest, and bend your other arm’s elbow such that it encases your extended arm.
Slide your bent arm outward and away from your body along your extended arm until you reach the wrist; lightly use the crook of your elbow and forearm that encase your extended arm to push the extended arm inwards more on your exhale. Hold this position for about twenty seconds before switching arms.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and straighten your arms on either side of you such that your arm span creates a line perpendicular to your body.
Move your right arm to cross it under your left arm and bend both elbows; as you cross your arms to stack your elbows, enclasp your fingers together to help hold the pose before switching which arm you cross underneath the other. You should feel this in your arms, but also in your shoulder blades.
Stand naturally with your arms at your side. Press your shoulder blades in towards each other while squeezing your shoulders inwards such that you feel your chest open. Slowly move your arms behind your back so that you hold them elbow-to-elbow. Hold this position for twenty to thirty seconds.
Stand up straight, with your arms at your side. Gradually lift your arms above you, wiggling your fingertips loosely as you point them towards the sky. Reach as high as you can and reach farther upwards with each exhale. Hold this position for several inhale-exhale cycles.
For a relaxing, quiet end to your stretch routine, stand up straight and gently rotate your head to the right, performing five large clockwise circles; switch directions and rotate your head counterclockwise.
Next, raise and lower your shoulders in big, exaggerated, and slow circles, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Drop your shoulders back to your normal height and take one final deep breath to end your morning stretch routine.
At Able, we believe that a healthy lifestyle and weight comprises many factors. This is why we focus on a holistic approach to health.
A healthy weight involves wellness and mindfulness, and wellness hinges not just on a number from a scale, but on proper nutrition, hydration, stress mitigation, sleep, relationships, and movement. The most rewarding and effective weight loss happens through habit and behavior change, not restrictive dieting.
Feel like yourself again and get ready for a happier, healthier you with these stretches to jumpstart your morning and help you perform consistently throughout your workday.
Sign up with Able now and try one of our self-care challenges to supplement your morning stretch routine for a happier, healthier you.