It’s every animal’s natural inclination to stretch upon waking—even a human’s—yet, we’re the only species to neglect this innate biological craving. Rather than jumping out of bed at the first beep of the alarm…or hitting snooze until you have no choice but to spring to life because you’ll be late otherwise…how about giving yourself five minutes in the morning to wake up your muscles and your mind, and stretch off the night.
Benefits of Morning Stretches
According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching in the morning alleviates muscle and joint discomfort. An entire evening spent laying horizontally increases the amount of fluid in your joints and spinal discs. Hence, the reason we wake up feeling stiff and achy.
Morning stretches also boost circulation, rev up digestion, and keep the spine supple and flexible. Not to mention, stretching every morning helps to improve posture. For those of us who spend hours hunched over a computer—over stretching our back muscles and constricting our chest muscles—morning stretches offer a layer of protection against poor posture.
Three Morning Stretches for the Spine
You can do the following three stretches in less than five minutes and from the coziness of your bed.
Spinal Twist: While you’re still laying down, draw your right knee to your chest. From a bent-knee position, draw your right leg across your body to the left side. Extend your right hand out to the right, and place your left hand on your right knee. Look to the right for full spinal rotation.
Repeat on the left, drawing your left leg over the right side of your body, extending your left hand out to the left, and looking to the left. Hold each side for up to a minute.
Stretch to the Ceiling: Intertwine your fingers, palms facing out. Press your arms straight, and reach up towards the ceiling. Keep your shoulders down and your arms as straight as possible. Concentrate on elongating your spine and opening your chest, feeling the stretch down the length of your ribcage. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
With the same form, stretch over to the right for 10-30 seconds. Stretch down the middle, and then repeat on the left side.
Neck and Shoulder Stretch: Stay seated in a comfortable crossed-legged position. Gently tilt your right ear to your right shoulder. Keep your shoulder down, and your chin slightly tucked. To increase the stretch, gently place your right hand on your head. Hold for 10-30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.
Shake things up! Add in some yoga and pilates stretches, or get creative according to your body’s needs. Honor your aches and pains, and breathe into each and every stretch.