Stop where you are, and pay attention to your body for a moment. What areas feel tense or achy? Maybe you notice that you clench your jaw or that your lower back feels like you have a red hot bowling ball lodged under your shirt.
One free way to ease stress and tension is through stretching. The beauty part of flexibility workouts is that you can do them anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you’re standing in line at the grocer’s or sitting at your workstation. Try these moves to feel better more quickly.
Forward folds are the ideal method for releasing tension in your lower back. You can do these seated or standing, which lets you perform them nearly anywhere. To do a standing forward fold, bend forward as if you want to touch your toes. Breathe deeply as you hinge from your hips. You can hold on to your elbows and gently sway side to side, or, if you have the range of motion, reach down and grab your toes to pull yourself closer to your legs.
To perform a seated forward fold, again, hinge from your hip. In this position, focus on posture by lengthening your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. You can use a strap or yoga blocks to make the move more comfortable. Avoid the temptation to force yourself into the stretch. Jerking or yanking your way into a movement can lead to muscle and tendon tears.
Are you one of the many who carries excess tension in their shoulders? You can ease it in several ways. While standing, try moving your shoulders up toward your ears as you inhale, as if you were shrugging, “I don’t know.” As you exhale, let them release, focusing your attention on relaxing the muscles.
You can also perform shoulder rolls. If you are in a crowded area, keep them small by rotating only the cuffs forward, then backward. If you have more space, open your arms wide and trace circles in the air. You can do this with your elbows bent or your arms straight.
Maybe, like many folks, you have pain in your spine. You can perform cat-cow pose standing, seated, or on all fours. To practice the most well-known variation, get on the floor on your hands and knees. As you inhale, let your belly hang down while keeping the core engaged and look up slightly. This motion accentuates the natural curvature of your spine. Then, as you exhale, round out your spine and think of opening your ribcage like an Oriental handheld fan.
To do this movement seated in your office chair, place your hands in your lap and coordinate the arching and rounding motions with your breath. If standing, you can set your hand on your thighs, leaning forward slightly as you perform the move.
Your spine doesn’t only move along the coronal or frontal plane, which divides you from front to back. This remarkable bone structure lets you do the twist, too. While you can dance it up on your feet, static twists work best seated or lying on the floor.
At your work desk, sit with your feet uncrossed in front of you, legs together. Place one hand on your opposite knee and the other on the back of your chair. Do one side and then the other. Don’t worry if your back cracks — as long as you avoid pushing it, you won’t cause arthritis or stunt your growth.
On the floor, lie on your back. You can bend both knees or perform a variation with one leg straight. Bring the bent knee toward your chest and then cross it over your body. Extend the opposite arm to the side.
Do you want a stretch that improves your posture? Stand up straight and elongate your spine. Think of reaching your head toward the ceiling and your feet into the earth. To other people, you’ll exude an air of confidence — while all you did was stretch your backbone and legs a bit.
Another full-body stretch you can perform anywhere is progressive muscle relaxation. Tighten all of your muscles — or those in a targeted area — for four to ten seconds. Then, relax them and feel the difference. This exercise helps you to identify areas of tension more readily before your muscles start to ache.
Your fitness instructor at the gym advises you not to skip the stretch section because your body needs it. Fortunately, with the moves above, you can do flexibility workouts anywhere you find yourself with a few extra minutes — like waiting in line.