Even if you’re diligent with working out at home, most of us are still moving our bodies less in lockdown.
When your commute is walking from your bedroom to the kitchen and you’re only allowed out of the house for an hour a day, it’s easy for your muscles to feel tight and your general mood lethargic.
Incorporating stretches into your daily routine can go a long way to helping your body and mind.
"Dedicated stretching is proven to positively affect wellbeing and give you a sense of vitality," says Henry Howe, osteopath and elite trainer at Third Space. "It improves body awareness, and like any body-aware practice, has a strong component of mindfulness to it."
It’s not like setting aside a chunk of time for working out – you can pepper your day with a few simple stretches. And, as an added bonus, it "has an impact on how our nervous system perceives our muscles, which in turn seems to help reduce pain, tension and help you move more freely," says Howe. Regular stretching will also help protect your joints and prevent injury.
So, if you’re missing out on regular coffee breaks and catching up with colleagues in the kitchen, why not replace it with some of these stretches? Just be sure to take your time, warm up thoroughly and ease into each of the movements.
1. Forward fold
This is an easy one that will wake up multiple parts of the body. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and fold over from your hips. Relax your head down to the floor, releasing any tension in the neck. This will give a nice stretch along your back. To increase it in your hamstrings, wrap your hands around the back of your legs and pull yourself deeper into the stretch.
To release out, have a soft bend in your knees and slowly roll up the spine, stacking each vertebrae at a time.
2. Child’s pose
This is a great stretch for your hips and back. "Begin by sitting on your heels before reaching your hands forward and resting your forehead on the floor," explains Howe.
Stretching is all about loosening up your body and doing what feels right for you, so ease back if any of the postures cause you pain. If it’s uncomfortable, How says: "Try putting a pillow between your hips and heels to reduce the pressure through the knees."
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For cobra pose, start face down on the floor with your hands next to your torso. "Using your arms push away from the floor, keeping the front of your thighs in contact with the floor," says Howe.
"If this is too intense you can move your hands forward or do the same stretch with your forearms still in contact with the floor."
4. Cat cow
Most of us are hunched over our computers all day, so it’s important to introduce a bit of movement into the spine. For cat cow, position yourself on all fours with your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your hips over your knees. As you inhale, lift your head and chest and look up at the ceiling, dropping your belly to the floor. On the exhale, round your spine, drop your chin to your chest and pull your stomach in. Go through a few rounds of this at your own pace, following the rhythm of your breath.
5. Hip flexor stretch
Ease into this one gently. Howe says: "In a half-kneeling position place your back foot on a step, and take the hand on that side and place behind the neck. Keeping a straight line from your knee to your head, gently lean forward to feel the stretch through the front of the thigh."
6. Spinal twist
Lie on your back with your legs up in tabletop position and arms stretched out into a T-shape. Slowly move your knees to the left, making sure you keep both of your shoulders planted on the floor. Turn your head towards the right and if you want to increase the stretch, place your left hand onto the knees and gently pull them closer to the ground. Breathe into the stretch – going deeper with each exhale – and repeat on the other side.
7. Hip 90/90 stretch
"Sit down with your your feet flat on the floor and knees bent to 90 degrees," says Howe. "Let your legs fall to the left, flattening your shin bones against the floor. Turn towards the left and place your hands on the floor out in front of your leg. Keeping a neutral spine, lower yourself toward the floor. Repeat on the other side."
8. Half-kneeling groin stretch
As the name suggests, this one is all about targeting your groin. "Begin by kneeling on both knees before extending one leg to the side with your foot pointing forwards," says Howe. "Place your hands on the floor in front of you and position your spine in neutral. Gently rock backwards until you feel the stretch in your groin and inner thigh."
9. Side stretch
You can do this one either sitting on your knees, cross-legged or standing up with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands in prayer stretched up over your head, and try and get as much length as you can before leaning over and feeling a stretch down the side of your body.
Repeat on the other side, making sure to move your body up and over – instead of just dropping into your side.
10. Neck release
This is a simple one to do without even leaving your desk. Sitting up tall, reach your left arm down to the ground and place your right hand on your left ear. Gently pull your head down towards the right – the more you reach away with your left arm, the greater the stretch will be. Play around with the angle of your head to see what feels best for you, and repeat on the other side.
Be sure to consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise programme.