Depending on our everyday lives, we can stand, sit, or even run after a two-year-old all day. By the end of the day, our body can feel sore and achy, and this interferes with our sleep. After working a desk job for eight years, having my first child, and now running after him, all day, my back, hips, and legs are SORE by the end of the day. One would think just being able to lay down would make it feel better, but it doesn’t. I would toss and turn all night from aches and have trouble finding a comfortable position. I have created a nightly routine of 5 stretches to do before bed for better sleep. It has helped wonders. Going to bed after stretching, I feel more relaxed; I fall asleep faster, and I sleep better. The best part is, it can be less than 5 minutes!
How Good is Stretching for You?
The simple answer, YES, stretching is AMAZING for you! When considering our diet and exercise routine and how we can improve it, we tend to overlook the benefits of stretching. It not only benefits our bodies but it also benefits our health. It can increase flexibility, your range of motion, increase blood flow to muscles, improve physical activity performance, help with better posture, and so much more.
Benefits of Stretching
- Increased Flexibility: Regular stretching can help flexibility, which is crucial for our overall health. As we get older, flexibility starts to diminishes, as our energy goes down. But stretching can help maintain it. The more we stretch, the more we move our muscles, and the more flexible we become. Over time, stretching will become easier for our bodies which results in improved flexibility.
- Increases Range of Motion: Stretching regularly will move our joints and help reduce pain, keep joints flexible, and improve strength and balance. If our muscles and joints remain inactive for a long period, they can deteriorate, and your range of motion will decrease. Everyday activities like using the stairs, the dishes, showering, cooking or bending do not move our joints through their full range of motion.
- Increase Blood Flow to Muscles: Having good blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. The heart rate also lowers since it doesn’t have to work as hard making blood pressure more even and consistent. When blood flow is increased, it increases nutrient supply to the muscles and relieves soreness in the muscles after a workout. Over time, stretching can help reduce pain in post-exercise and recovery time.
- Improves Physical Activity Performance: If your muscles are tense because you don’t stretch, then they won’t be as effective during exercise. Daily stretching will relax your muscles enable them to be more available during exercise.
- Better Posture: Poor posture is becoming more and more common with sedimentary jobs. We can easily fix poor posture with daily stretching. Stretching strengthens your muscles and encourages proper alignment. Your body posture will be less slouched and more vertical.
Practice Proper Technique
Seated Hamstring Strech
Tight hamstrings can reduce the mobility of the pelvis which in return will put pressure on our lower backs. By stretching the hamstrings can prevent them from becoming tense and provide extra support for the back and pelvis
How to do: Sit on the ground with the left leg bent at the knee with the foot facing inward. Extend the right leg, keeping a slight bend at the knee. Bend forward at the waist as far as you can go without rounding your back, keeping the back straight. Hold the stretch for 10–30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Downward dog elongates and releases tension from your spine, opens the hips and shoulders, stretches hamstrings, calves, arches, hands, strengths arms, shoulders, wrists, ankles, abdominals, improves digestion, relieves back pain, headaches, insomnia, and fatigue. As a mild inversion, it calms the nervous system and reduces stress.
How to do: Begin in Table Position on all fours, hands, and knees. Knees are hip distance apart, curl the toes under. Walk the hands flat out in front of the shoulders. Make sure the palms are spread flat. Raise the Body Up and Back into Posture. Hold and Breathe for 10-30 seconds
Increases the external range of motion of the femur in the hip socket. Pigeon pose lengthens the hip flexors, and if practiced consistently you will notice ease in your lower half as you sit, walk and stand.
How to do: Start in a downward dog position. Start to raise your right leg up to the ceiling. Bring it down, under and your torso. Start to straighten and slide your left leg behind you. Bring the front of your thigh down on the floor. Look behind you to make sure your left leg is straight behind you, not out to the side. Lower the outside of your right butt cheek to the floor. Hold for 10-30 seconds, repeat on the other side.
Upward-Facing Dog stretches the chest and spine while strengthening the wrists, arms, and shoulders. By strengthening and opening the upper body and chest, it improves posture and can be therapeutic for asthma.
How to do: Lying face down on the floor or your mat. Pull your shoulders down and away from your ears. Engage your abs by drawing your belly button toward your spine. Lift into a low cobra pose by using your back and abdominal muscles to bend your back backward. Hold for 10-30 second.
Child’s Pose is a full body resting stretch. It can help to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso.
How to do: Begin in tabletop position on your hands and knees. Spread your knees apart while keeping your big toes touching. Rest your butt as close to your heels as you can. Bend forward, with your torso between your thighs. Your heart and chest should rest between or on top of your thighs. Let your forehead rest on the floor. Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down. Hold for 10-30 seconds
How Stretching can Help with Sleep
Stretching can help you get in touch with your body and help to focus your attention on your breath and body, and not the stress of the day. Bringing this awareness to your body helps you develop mindfulness, which can help promote better sleep. Stretching also offers potential physical benefits, helping to relieve muscle tension and prevent sleep-disrupting cramps. Make sure you stick to gentle stretches before bed, as doing a big workout before bed can have the opposite effect.
If you have any other nightly stretches to add to the list comment down below and let me know!!
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