As a certified yoga teacher, personal trainer, and stretching and flexibility coach, it's my goal to help people improve their bodies, minds, and the relationship between the two. So I've partnered with think! to share some simple stretches anyone can do to help relieve tension in the body while calming the mind.
Incorporating these stretches into your routine can help release muscle tension, reduce stress, and enhance your overall sense of well being. Let's explore six simple stretches that can work wonders in bringing more peace to both the body and mind.
Keep in mind that everyone's body is different and they won't look or feel the same for every person. Always remember to listen to your body while doing these stretches and try not to tense the muscles - instead, work to relax into the stretches and use your breath as a tool to really sink into that relaxation response.
- Child's Pose:
Child's pose is a wonderful way to release tension in the hips, lower back, and shoulders while closing the eyes and calming the mind.
Begin by kneeling on the floor, bringing your big toes together and sitting on your heels. Exhale as you walk your arms out in front of you and fold your torso forward, allowing it to rest between your thighs. Stretch your arms out in front of you or place them alongside your body. Close your eyes and focus on your breath as you feel the gentle stretch along your spine and hips. Notice any sensations that arise and practice breathing into them.
- Seated Forward Fold:
Seated forward fold is a great way to get a nice stretch in the hamstrings and back.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Inhale deeply and lengthen your spine, then exhale as you hinge at your hips and fold forward over your legs. You can hold onto your shins, ankles, or feet, depending on your flexibility. As you fold deeper, feel the stretch in your hamstrings and lower back. To feel more of a stretch in the hamstrings, try to keep the spine straight and lengthened. Eventually if you like, you can relax the muscles and allow the spine to round forward to release tension in the back and further relax into the pose.
- Cat Pose:
Cat pose promotes spinal flexibility and helps alleviate stress by reducing tension in the back. It is often paired with Cow Pose to bring gentle movement into the spine.
Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Exhale as you round your back, tucking your chin to your chest (Cat Pose).
If you'd like to bring movement into the pose, from Cat Pose, inhale to arch your back, lifting your tailbone and head (Cow Pose). Move between these two poses with your breath, focusing on the sensation in your spine. You can choose to link breath with movement here for a moving meditation.
- Reclining Spinal Twist:
Reclining spinal twist helps to provide a gentle stretch for the whole body, calming the mind and improving circulation while releasing tension in the neck and spine.
Start lying on your back and bring one or both knees into the chest. Allow your knees to fall over to one side and turn your head to gaze in the opposite direction, creating a twist.
- Legs Up the Wall:
This is one of the most calming poses you can do as it really helps to relax every muscle in the body.
Lie on your back near a wall and extend your legs up the wall. This gentle inversion promotes relaxation and encourages blood flow back to the heart. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and let go of any tension you may be holding. This pose is known for its calming effects on the nervous system, making it an excellent choice for relaxation.
- Corpse Pose:
Corpse pose is the ultimate for relaxation as it's simply lying on your back with the eyes closed.
Lie down on your back with your legs extended and arms by your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Scan your body for any remaining tension and see if you can try to consciously release it. Take a deep breath and see if you can release anything that is not serving you. Allow your body to relax completely and let your mind settle. Stay here as long as you like.
Incorporating these simple stretches into your daily routine, even if only for a few minutes, can have a huge impact on your mental and physical well being. By taking the time to stretch and breathe mindfully, you're giving yourself the gift of a peaceful moment amid the chaos of life. Giving that to yourself is an act of self-love and a perfect way to have a better relationship with yourself. Whether it's in the morning to set a positive tone for the day or in the evening to unwind, these stretches can help you find your inner calm and enjoy the benefits of a quieter mind.