March 17, 2022
Are you consistently waking up and feeling stiffness in your body? Establishing a morning stretching routine can help relieve your body’s tension along with improving mobility, connecting breath to movement and setting intentions for the start of your day.
In sleep, our bodies tend to lay in awkward and uncomfortable positions for hours on end. We’ve all experienced waking up with some sort of discomfort- tight muscles, slight tingly sensations or stiffness in the joints. Stretching first thing in the morning can help relieve any discomfort by bringing blood to the muscles and joints that need an extra minute to fully wake up and function for the day.
Note: If you’re exercising first thing in the morning, make sure to take the time to stretch dynamically and/or stick to a warm-up routine that isolates the muscles and joints that will be utilized for your workout. You wouldn’t start your car and drive it in sub zero conditions without warming it up first… so take the time to warm up your body properly and smoothly cruise through your workout!
Let’s explore additional benefits of stretching in the morning:
Choose stretches that suit your body’s tension points. Favor the stretches that give you the most feedback to your muscles. After trying many variations, you may prefer a full-body flow over isolated stretches or vice-versa. Through trial and error, you’ll discover stretches that work best for you. Here’s a breakdown of a few different stretches that are especially beneficial to follow in the morning:
Stand tall, hinge from the hips and reach for your toes. The forward fold is greatly beneficial for targeting the back of the legs along with the lower back muscles. If you cannot reach for your toes, place your hands on your shins. Actively hold this stretch or passively allow your body to hang in the bottom position.
Stand tall, reach your arms over your head and reach as high as you can with your upper body. Feel this stretch open up your upper body as well as the torso. For a deeper stretch, bring your gaze up towards the ceiling and try to slightly reach towards the back wall. Keep pressing your feet through the ground to balance the reach.
From the overhead reach position, grab your left wrist with your right hand and pull the arms towards the right side of your body. Feel a deep sensation through the lateral line of the left side of your body.
Hinge into your forward fold position. Walk your hands into a plank, keep your feet slightly apart. Push your hands through the ground, send your hips up towards the ceiling and pull your torso close to the thighs.
Place your hands and knees on the ground in a quadruped position. Stack your shoulders above the wrists and your hips above the knees. Start in a neutral spine position. Drop your belly towards the ground and arch all the way through the spine for cow pose. Reverse by tucking your tailbone and rounding through the back for cat pose. Alternate between each and feel any tense points of the spine and the rest of the body. Actively pushing your hands and knees through the ground will ensure that your entire body is working through cat and cow. Make sure to include your neck, it is a part of the spine!
In this morning stretching routine, you will flow through five movements that target various parts of the body. The movements should be done slowly so you can really feel the stretch (as seen in the video).
Here’s the breakdown of each movement and the routine:
Start in a standing position with a neutral posture. Look up towards the ceiling then start to tuck the chin towards your chest as you roll one vertebrae at a time all the way down into a forward fold position. Hold at the bottom of the forward fold to target any tension in the low back or the back of the legs. Slowly roll all the way back up towards your standing posture.
On the 3rd rep, you will transition into the next movement from the forward fold position...
On the last repetition of your spinal roll, slowly walk your hands out in front of you until you are in a tall plank position. Draw your right foot to the outside of your right hand. Keep your right leg bent and stacked at 90 degrees while the back leg stays straight and active. Rotate your right arm up towards the ceiling to target the thoracic spine (mid-back). Feel this rotation through your upper body along with the stabilization and stretching of the lower body. Plant your right hand to your mat, step your right foot back to plank and switch sides.
On the last rep, you will transition from the plank position to the next movement...
After you’ve worked through your last world’s greatest position, step your feet together in a plank position. From a tall plank stance, send your hips up towards the ceiling as you press your hands through the ground while pushing your torso towards the legs. Slightly separate the feet and pedal them in place to open up the calf muscles. Start to send your body forwards and drop your hips to the ground. Keep your arms straight, making sure your wrists are stacked underneath the shoulders. Untuck your toes and push your legs through the ground for up dog. If up dog compresses the lower back too much, come down to your forearms and pull the ribcage off the ground. Bring your body back into plank position and flow through the sequence of down dog to up dog.
On the last rep, from the down dog position, walk your hands to your feet back to a standing position...
From the plank position, walk your hands to your feet. Open your feet up to a squat stance and secure your hands to the tops of your feet. If your mobility does not allow for you to hold on to the feet, move up to the shins instead. With your hips high and hands secured in position, pull your hips into a deep squat. Keep a proud chest and allow your hips to sink into a low stance. Lift your hips back up towards the ceiling without letting your hands go. Feel a deep hamstring stretch as you lift and a deep hip opener as you lower.
After your last rep, sit down on the floor and get into a 90/90 seated position for the last movement...
To finish off this full-body morning routine, sit tall and open up your hips to a 90/90 stance. Narrow your stance by joining the right foot to the top of your left thigh. Place your right hand outside of your right hip and press through the ground to lift your hips off the ground. Reach your left arm towards the ceiling and shift your weight onto your shins. Feel a deep stretch through your left hip and left side of the body. Alternate and repeat.
If a full-body mobility flow does not suit your needs, there are multiple modalities to incorporate morning stretches. FAQ’s about morning stretches:
Decompression stretches that lengthen the back muscles and separate the spinal joints are most beneficial for the lower back. The most common and accessible stretch, the forward fold, allows tension from the lower back to release along with the hamstring and glute muscles to lengthen. The forward fold can also be done in a seated position with both legs straight in front of the body.
It is worth addressing why you may be feeling consistent lower back tension and stiffness. Tight hamstrings are one puzzle piece to the problem. The hamstrings are the muscles on the backside of the thigh: biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. The hamstring muscles work together to extend the knee and flex at the hip. It is common to feel symmetrical tension of the lower back when the hamstrings are tight. As the hamstring tightens, the pelvis is pulled in a posterior tilt. The lumbar spine shifts into a flexed position in a posterior tilt, causing increased stress on the surrounding musculature.
Tight hamstrings are just one area that may be affecting lower back tension. Additional movement discrepancies and imbalances may be the answer to why this is a recurring sensation. With a chronic muscular condition, it is best to seek professional guidance.
There are certainly many stretches that are accessible to do while still laying in bed. This is a great option when you’re under time restraints or your body is feeling particularly stiff. Whichever stretches you choose, hold each for 1-2 minutes. Cycle through 1-3 rounds and intentionally breathe through each movement.
LYING ON BACK:
LYING ON STOMACH:
If you have limited mobility or struggle to get up and down from the ground, seated stretches are just as beneficial. As a general tip for stretching, pick positions and movements that are most accessible for your body. Do not force your body in a stretch, this should feel good. Try these out:
Related: Best Stretches for Seniors
Connect with your body first thing in the morning with stretching. A series of variations for morning stretching are available for what your body needs most, whether it is a full-body stretch or localized stationary stretches. Bring awareness to tension points, improve your mobility, connect with breathing and set your intentions for the rest of your day all with morning stretching.
Here are some great neck stretches that you can add to your morning routine!
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