If the only time you think about stretching is after a workout, you’re missing out on additional opportunities to reap the benefits of what this simple, yet powerful practice has to offer. Stretching keeps your muscles well-nourished by promoting healthy blood flow and fluid exchange. While improving your flexibility, you’re also preparing your joints to move in their full range of motion, decreasing your risk of injury. Of course, the tension-releasing effects of a good stretching session surely can’t be overlooked either.
While you may not always have time for a lengthy session on a mat each day, consider taking a few minutes—wherever you are—to try these simple, seated stretches. All you need is a chair.
When our hamstrings are tight, it can actually lead to discomfort in our knees, hips and spine, so it’s important to keep them loose.
- Move to the front edge of your seat. Place your right foot forward, stretching your leg out nice and long. Your left foot should remain flat on the ground with your knee bent.
- With your spine straight and your left hand on your left thigh, reach for your right toes with your right hand, feeling your spine elongate and the stretch extend through the backside of your leg. If you aren’t able to touch your toes, rest your hand on your shin or thigh.
- Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds as you inhale and exhale. Slowly come back up and repeat on the other side.
Your hip flexor muscles on your upper thigh can easily tighten, causing limited flexibility. Stretching this area reduces your risk of injury while playing sports, working out or engaging in other daily activities.
- Sitting in your chair, cross your right ankle just above your left knee.
- Use your right hand to gently press your right knee, feeling the stretch through the hip.
- Maintaining this position, lean forward while keeping a flat spine and relaxed shoulders. Inhale and exhale as you feel your body melt deeper into the stretch.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then slowly sit up straight and place your right foot back on the ground. Repeat on the other side.
It’s common for the upper trapezius muscle (which extends from the base of your skull to your collarbone) to get tight. The effects of this—“high” shoulders and tense neck muscles—may already be all too familiar to you. This stretch can help alleviate that tension:
- Sitting up straight in your chair, bend your head toward your right shoulder. Try to avoid leaning your whole body by keeping your shoulders level.
- Reaching up and over, place your right hand on the left side of your head and gently apply pressure, feeling the stretch through your neck and down your left shoulder.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, making sure to breathe throughout the stretch.
- Release your hand and slowly bring your head back to center. Repeat on the other side.
Carrying heavy bags, leaning in toward computer monitors—our lives are full of situations that lead us to round our shoulders forward, which encourages poor posture and muscle strain. To help this, try a few shoulder rolls:
- Inhale and simultaneously raise your shoulders up to your ears.
- Roll them back and exhale as you lower them down, letting your shoulder blades slide down your back. Avoid rolling your shoulders forward, concentrating on the up-back-down motion. Your chest should feel open and proud.
- Repeat this motion for 20 to 30 seconds. When you’re finished, be mindful of the settled posture of your shoulders as you continue on with your day.
Sitting all day can make your body feel compressed. Stretching and elongating your spine keeps the muscles and tissues limber while helping you feel taller. This stretch involves rotation through the spine:
- Sitting with both feet on the ground, place your left hand on your left knee and your right hand behind you on the seat.
- Inhale and twist your torso to the right, keeping your hips forward and your shoulders down. (Picture your spine winding like a spiral staircase.) Turn your head as if you’re looking for something behind you.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Feel your spine get taller, then exhale and unwind back to the front. Repeat on the other side.
Do these stretches to the best of your ability, remembering that your flexibility will only improve over time.