Last Updated on August 3, 2021
Stretching isn`t just about being able to touch your toes. It’s much more. Stretching increases mobility and flexibility, improves blood circulation in your muscles, and contributes to your energy and vitality. A flexible body is a functional body – you enjoy a wide range of motion, and your athletic performance improves. Let’s look at five easy and popular stretches that will help you increase your overall flexibility.
1. Start With your Hamstrings: Forward Fold
The hamstring muscles tend to retain a lot of tension. They can become really stiff if you are doing a lot of hiking, biking, or weightlifting. These muscles, when they are flexible enough, can allow us to touch our toes. They call the basic hamstring stretch the forward fold in yoga.
Stand tall, holding your arms at both sides. With your back straight, folding from your hips and not from your lower back, allow your body to bend forward as much as it allows. It is important to keep your back straight to avoid injury. When you have reached your limit, stop and relax. Hold gently to the back of your legs at whatever level you reach. It can be at the back of your knees, at your ankles, or, if you are more advanced, at your toes.
Hold for a minute or two. You will still feel some benefit if you hold it for just 30 seconds. It depends on how you feel on that particular day. You can deepen the stretch by using an elastic band that facilitates the comfort of this pose. You can also check stretch.com out for some nice stretchers.
The hamstring stretch allows you to extend the muscles that are responsible for a front split, so if you are super motivated, this might be your next goal!
2. Your Inner Thighs: The Frog
Your inner thighs are another important area to target during your flexibility routine. The muscles of your inner thighs allow the side split. Stretching these muscles has many health benefits. It relieves the tension in the lower back that comes from poor postures, such as sitting with your legs crossed. One easy way to stretch your inner thighs is the frog stretch.
Get on your hands and knees and place your knees at the width of your shoulders. Allow your feet to rest naturally. With time, you can widen the gap between the knees. A variation is to rock gently. If your body allows it, you can switch from your hands to your forearms. Hold for as long as you can, from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
3. The Sphinx
If you want to stretch your abs after a workout or to gently stretch your lower back, the sphinx stretch is the best to go.
Lie on your belly with your legs extended behind you. Lift your chest by placing your elbows under your shoulders, so the weight of your upper body stands on your forearms. Lift the chest off the floor gently, as far up as you can. Relax your shoulders and make sure your hips and thighs stay flat on the floor.
Move up until you feel a good stretch in your lower back. Stop immediately if you feel any sharp or shooting pain in your back.
4. The Sides of the Body: Banana Stretch
The banana stretch is great because it affects the whole sides of your body, from the IT bands (the iliotibial) and the oblique stomach muscles to the rib cage muscles and shoulders.
Lie flat on your back, your legs next to each other, fully extended. Stretch your arms above your head and clasp your hands. Make sure your buttocks stay on the ground. Move your feet and your arms and upper torso to the right, forming an arch similar to a banana. You can hold this position from 30 seconds up to 5 minutes. In this pose, move your body gently to the right. Switch from the right to the left side.
5. The Child`s Pose
The child`s pose offers a very gentle stretch that counterbalances the Sphinx. While the Sphinx extends the anterior chain (the frontal part) of your spine, the child`s pose brings your posterior chain (the back of your spine) relief and relaxation. Place your hands and knees on the ground and spread your knees to shoulder width or wider. Keep your feet on the floor with your big toes touching it. Rest your abdomen between your hips. Your forehead should be gently touching the floor.
Relax your body and bring it into a comfortable position. If you don’t want your head to touch the floor, place it on a pillow or a blanket. You can stretch your arms forward to increase the flexibility of your shoulders.