I’m sure most of us (including me) have been largely inactive during this period of social distancing and working from home. Spending all those hours slouched over a desk has definitely taken a toll on my lower back, shoulders and neck. Having recently taken up the practice of yoga has definitely been a step in the right direction for me. I have learned that the relationship we have with our body is one of mutual respect. Treat your body with respect, take good care of it, and it shall never fail you.
I definitely don’t imply that you need to work out every day for this cause. Think of your body like a car. Leave it out untouched too long and it starts to get rusty and gives you trouble even starting up. Just like you have to take your car for a spin every now and then to keep it in good condition, you have to move about every now and then to ensure the same with your body. A quick and effective way to do this is stretching. Here are a few great stretches I do a couple of times a day to help me stay in tip-top condition.
The Forward Bend
I’ll start with probably the stretch I do most, the forward fold. This stretch is an amazingly simple yet effective way to open up your lower back and stretch your hamstrings. As the name implies, this stretch requires you to bend forward from the hip and try and touch your toes. You could do this in either a standing position or sitting with your legs stretched out in front of you.
It isn’t as important if you can’t touch your toes, but what matters more is that you bend from the hip and keep your knees straight. You should feel a gentle stretch on your lower back as the vertebrae stretch. Hold this position for about 20-30 seconds and try to do this exercise at least twice a day. As someone with a slouching problem, this stretch is a go-to for me if I ever feel any lower back discomfort.
Neck and Shoulder Rotations
More often than not, I tend to take the muscles I use regularly, the most granted for. This includes my neck and shoulders. Working all those hours from home translated to my posture being stiff. Specially the muscles around my neck. A great way to loosen these up and give you their full range of motion is by rotating your neck very gently. As someone who gets dizzy quite quickly, I do emphasize on being gentle.
If you have particularly stiff muscles, you can try bending your neck from side to side and look left and right, using your hand to gently push your neck towards your shoulders. Stretching these muscles encourages better blood circulation around the neck and head region and makes a huge difference in improving posture.
The Ankle, Knee and Pelvic Rotation
I spend most of my day in a seated position and that means that most of my bodyweight lies on my glutes, thighs and feet. This essentially means that I should move the lower half of my body, every now and then to ensure sufficient blood circulation. The way I tackle this is by ensuring to get off my chair once every two hours and stretching my ankles, knees, and hip. You can absolutely take support of a wall when trying this, although it is preferable if you don’t, as it’d be improving your balance.
Rotating the ankles ensures the little piggy gets all the blood flow it requires to stay oxygenated. Rotating the knee helps keep the tendons around the kneecap in good health, keeping away any aches or pains they may cause. Pelvic health is often overlooked but is vital in maintaining a good posture. A good way to achieve this is by simple pelvic rotations. Doing these three simple exercises do wonders for me in maintaining a healthy lower body.
Why Stretching is Important
I have mentioned above in bits and pieces, but I will sum up the benefits of stretching. Stretching allows your muscles to stay flexible, strong and healthy, and enable your joints to maintain their full range of motion. Even if you are someone who works out regularly, it is still important to stretch both before and after your workout. Stretching before opens up the muscles and joints, preventing potential injuries, and stretching after reduces soreness of the muscles and prevents them from stiffening up.
As you can see stretching is hugely beneficial for keeping us going and it does so much more than alleviate and prevent pain; it is also a great way to alleviate stress. Stretching, if followed up with 15 minutes of meditation is an excellent way to transition from a workday into some R&R. This is exactly how I have been ending my workdays lately, and I recommend you give it a shot too! Namaste!