You probably think of stretching as something you do immediately after a workout, but gentle stretching can be a great way to unwind and and release tension after a tough day.
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Before hitting the hay, hit the mat for a chilled-out stretch session that soothes your muscles and improves circulation. Here are 10 stretches will help you relax and set you up for a good night’s sleep.
Suffer from tightness in your hips? This stretch will open your hips and ease tension in your pelvis. Sit on the floor, knees opened with your feet touching. Press your knees down toward the floor. Then sit up straight, sucking your bellybutton in. Hold this position for about 5 to 10 seconds. Then slowly lean forward, leaning into your legs, allowing your hands to rest on your feet. Once you’ve gone as far as you can go, remain in that position for another 5 to 10 seconds.
2. Seated Side Bend
This stretch gets your body adjusted to the stretching process and helps relieve tension in the shoulders. Sit on the floor and cross your legs. Place your right hand on the floor next to you. Then take your left arm and extend it up, making a “C” shape with your hand above your head. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds; swap sides.
3. Reclining Pigeon
Lie face-up with your knees bent, feet flat on floor. Lift your right leg and externally rotate the hip to place the right ankle on the left knee. Keeping your shoulder and head in contact with the ground, extend both arms and grasp the left leg behind the knee. Gently pull the left knee in toward your chest until you feel a stretch along the outside of the right thigh and hold.
Repeat with your other leg.
4. Reclining Spinal Twist
Lie on your back with your legs together, but straight out. Cross your right leg over your left leg, which is still straight. As you do that, stretch your arms straight out, making a “T” shape and turn your head to the left. After a few seconds, release the pose: Either return to the middle by doing a knee to chest pose first and then crossing the other leg over, or skip the knee to chest and simply cross over, holding that position for a few seconds as well.
This stretch benefits the muscles of your chest, abdominals, and neck, while also stretching your spine. Start out lying on your stomach. Put your hands on the floor in front of you, then push your upper body up and back until you feel a stretch. All the while, keep your legs, part of your torso and pelvis on the floor. Tilt your head backward to give your neck an extra stretch. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then return to lying on your stomach.
6. Open Lizard
This stretch is a little advanced but, can decrease tension in the outer hips. Come into a lunge position with one knee in the front. Lower your back knee to the ground, while lowering your hands on the floor next to front knee. Now focus on the leg next to you: tilt your foot to the side. Make sure your arms remain straight down and your chest pushes forward; this will increase the intensity of the stretch.
7. Standing Backbend
Have tension in your back and chest? This stretch is for you! Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands on your lower back and arch your back, lifting your chest upward. The more you arch, the deeper stretch you’ll achieve. Just don’t overdo it.
8. Knees to Chest
Lie on your back with your knees pulled into your chest; you can secure your knees by interlocking your hands around them. To give a more intense stretch, pull down on your knees and gently move your head from side to side, stretching your neck muscles.
9. Warrior One
This stretch will relax you and prepare you to sleep peacefully. Stand in a lunging position. Raise both arms above your head, putting them together as if in a clap, and straighten your upper body as much as possible. For a deeper stretch, go deeper into the lunge and lift your hands as high as possible over your head.
10. Forward Bend
This is one of the easiest stretches and it does wonders for the back, not to mention relax you. Stand up straight with your feet together. Lean your torso over, your head reaching down to your knees. Then extend your arms upward, allowing them to stretch your back and shoulder muscles.