11 Stretches Almost Everyone Can Do
Last Updated: Apr 25, 2016
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“I’m not flexible enough.” “I don’t like chanting.” “I can’t sit through an hour-long stretching class.” “I just don’t do yoga.” Sound like you? That’s OK — yoga isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But you can still get all the benefits of stretching without having to chant “om” or sit through a sweaty yoga class. Just living life causes both mental and physical stress, and sitting at a desk all day isn’t doing your hips and lower back any favors. So the following stretches are ones you can do almost anywhere at anytime — and you don’t even need a yoga mat.
If you sit all day at a desk or run a lot, your daily routine can be tough on your hips. This can be especially true in men because a lot of guys don’t prioritize stretching. Doing a low lunge stretches out your hips and thighs. You can challenge yourself with a high lunge, which gives you more muscle strength in the movement and is a great alternative for those who aren’t as flexible. HOW TO DO IT: From a standing position, fold your upper body to reach over your thighs. Place your hands on the ground and step one foot back as far as you can while bending your front leg. Your front knee will form a 90-degree angle with your foot directly over your ankle. Keep breathing and allow your hips to sink a little lower, keeping them square. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat with each leg two to three times.
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Stretch each side of your body from head to foot. There isn’t a single stretch more satisfying and easy than the side bend. It stretches and lengthens your entire body and provides a much-needed break from the monotony of the workday. So stand up and give it a try. HOW TO DO IT: Standing with your feet together, reach your arms up overhead with your palms together. Inhale and bend your body to the right, pressing your hips to the left. Create length in your body without caving it forward or back. Think “lift, then bend.” Hold for a moment, come back to center, then stretch to the left. Continue this back-and-forth side bending for five to 10 bends on each side.
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SEATED HAMSTRING STRETCH
Hamstrings are always very stubborn. No matter how flexible you become or how deeply you stretch them, they’re designed to resist your stretching. The harder you pull, the harder they pull back. Hamstrings need to be stretched gently and slowly. They’re important to keep loose so that you don’t acquire lower-back pain or difficulty lifting your legs. HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the ground with your legs extended straight out from your hips. Bring one foot into the opposite hip. Inhale and reach your arms toward the sky, sitting up as straight as possible. Exhale and fold at the hips toward your outstretched leg. Depending on your flexibility level, you can grab your big toe, the bottoms of your feet, your ankles or your shins. Use your arms to pull your chest closer to your thighs. Lift back up to seated, pause and lower back down, bringing your chest a little closer to your thighs. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.
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Just like Happy Baby, this pose is amazing for the hips and inner thighs, but it’s performed from a standing position. Plus, you can do this stretch anywhere and not worry about getting down on the floor. Try it in your office or in the line at the grocery store. HOW TO DO IT: From a standing position, open your legs as wide as your can. Point your toes outward and your heels inward. Slowly lower your hips toward the ground. As you lower your hips, raise your arms to the side into a “T” position straight out from your shoulders. Straighten your legs back to standing as you raise your arms overhead. Exhale and sink your hips back down and lower your arms back to shoulder height. Repeat this motion 10 more times.
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THREAD THE NEEDLE
This stretch is a must for people who keep stress in their neck, shoulders and upper back. Thread the needle relaxes your upper body, allowing it to surrender to the ground while focusing on stretching the shoulders, upper arms, upper back and neck. HOW TO DO IT: From table position (on your hands and knees), slide the right hand between the left hand and left knee. Reach the arm all the way out to the left so that the right shoulder and side of the head rest comfortably on the floor. Inhale and reach the left hand up toward the sky, extending straight out from the shoulder. Hold here for a few breaths, then switch to the other side, coming out of the position the same way you went into it.
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STABILITY-BALL BACK STRETCH
A mobile spine is a well-nourished spine. Keeping the spine flexible and limber allows the body’s blood to flow with ease. This pose also helps open the chest, strengthen the lungs and lengthen the front side of the body. Additionally, it challenges your balance. HOW TO DO IT: Sitting on your knees, place a stability ball behind you touching your back. Holding the ball, lift up and lean over it. Roll backward until your upper back is on top of the ball. Extend your arms over your head, reaching toward the floor. Inhale to roll forward, exhale to roll backward. You can also roll in small circles to feel the space between your vertebrae stretching and expanding. Explore your back in this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat as many times as necessary.
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STANDING HIP STRETCH
The name says it all -- hips, hips and more hips. It’s so important to keep the hips loose, and this is yet another great way to keep them open and flexible. HOW TO DO IT: Stand upright with your feet hip-distance apart. Slowly lift your right knee and grab your right foot with your left hand, bringing it over the left knee. Cradle your right knee with your right hand. Lift your lower leg up as high as you can, keeping your leg in the bent figure-4 position. Inhale and try to straighten your upper body. Stay here for a few more breaths before moving to the opposite leg.
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PRONE QUADRICEPS STRETCH
With all of this hamstring stretching, it’s important to make sure the opposing muscle is equally stretched. In this case, that’s the quadriceps. It’s important to keep the muscles surrounding the knee loose to prevent knee pain. HOW TO DO IT: Lying on your stomach, rest your hands under your forehead to create a pillow. Bend your right knee so your right foot comes toward your right glute and use your right hand to reach back for your foot. If you can’t reach your foot, use a strap or towel for assistance. Draw your foot to your buttock as close as you can. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat with the other leg and hand.
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Cobra pose helps strengthen the buttocks, spine, lungs, shoulders and abdominals. It encourages an increase in body heat and opens the heart. When the body reaches a higher temperature it becomes ready to embrace the depth of stretches. HOW TO DO IT: Lie facedown on the floor with your thighs, shins and the tops of your feet pressing firmly into the ground. Your hands should be placed under your shoulders with your elbows tucked in and pointing toward your feet. On an inhale, begin to lift your chest by pushing your hands firmly into the ground and straightening your arms. Make sure your shoulder blades are pressing together and away from your ears. Lift through your chest, but don’t extend too far back. Take it slowly and keep your abdominals tight. Your glutes should be strong, but not overly squeezed. Hold here for 10 to 30 seconds. Exhale and slowly lower your chest back to the ground. Repeat three times.
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Like a peaceful baby, we all need a stress release from time to time. Happy Baby is the perfect pose to rid yourself of stress and fatigue and calm your mind. It’s excellent for opening up the hips and inner-groin area. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back and draw your knees into your chest. Use your first two fingers on each hand to grab your big toes, opening your knees to the outside of your torso and making sure your arms are inside your knees. Exhale and pull your knees down as close to the floor as you can. If you’re feeling good, slowly rock side to side, massaging your lumbar spine. Stay here for up to one minute, breathing in and out.
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LEGS UP THE WALL
Finish your stretching routine with this number: It’s the best way to end your stretching and just relax for a moment before you proceed with your day. Our whole day is spent upright with our torso closer to the sun than our legs. This position reverses that positioning and helps the blood to flow away from our legs toward our heart. HOW TO DO IT: Find a wall or other solid, vertical item you can place your bottom as close to as possible with your legs resting on it, creating a 90-degree angle with your body (or at least as close to a 90-degree angle as comfortable). It’s perfectly fine if your bottom isn’t up against the wall. Relax here and take big, deep breaths. Remain in this position for as little as one minute and as long as 15 minutes.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you tried any of these stretches? What did you think? What are some of your other favorite stretches that aren’t necessarily yoga poses? After trying these do you think you’ll give yoga a try, or are you still not convinced? What else do you do to keep joints limber and your muscles from tightening? Let us know in the comments section below!
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