How to Create a Morning Stretch Routine
From alleviating strains to increasing flexibility, adding morning stretches to your daily routine can be highly beneficial for your body. You can perform morning stretches from the comfort of your own bed or on a yoga mat—no extra equipment required.
3 Benefits of Morning Stretches
A morning stretch routine can:
Prepare your body for daily motion. Stretching your body can stimulate your muscles, increase your range of motion, and promote blood flow. Releasing tension through stretching can make it easier to use the right muscles during the day, whether you’re planning on lifting dumbbells, moving boxes or heavy items, sitting in an office chair, or performing strenuous exercise programs like yoga or tennis practice.
Alleviate strain from sleeping positions. It’s not uncommon to wake up with a stiff neck or sore shoulder from an uncomfortable night’s rest in an awkward sleep position. Performing a brief morning stretch routine can help relax aches and pains and send necessary blood flow to pinched areas.
Increase long-term flexibility. Over time, consistent, safe morning stretches can increase your long-term flexibility, allowing you to perform deeper stretches and hold stretches longer, both in the morning and during other stretching sessions.
How to Create a Morning Stretch Routine
Here’s a formula for a basic morning stretch routine that you can do after getting out of bed:
Check in with your body. If your muscles feel cold or stiff when you wake up, launching right into a stretching routine can increase your injury risks. Before you start a morning stretch, check in with your body to ensure that you’re feeling warm and loose; if not, move around a bit, perform some deep breathing exercises, or take a quick cardio walk to increase your heart rate and encourage blood flow to your muscles.
Start with your spine. Begin with a spine stretch before stretching other muscles. The most common full-body stretch that prioritizes your spine is a simple vertical stretch. To perform a vertical stretch, stand straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slowly lift your arms above your head, reaching for the ceiling. Hold for several deep breaths, then gently tilt your body from side to side. You should feel a vertical stretch in both your upper back (including your shoulder blades and neck) and lower back. Other common spine stretches include neck rolls and shoulder stretches.
Move to your core. A simple core stretch is the trunk twist. To perform the trunk twist, stand straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart, then take a small step forward with your right foot. Next, twist your core to the left and hold for several breaths. Switch sides and repeat with the left foot slightly forward. Other core stretches include the sphinx stretch, lying hip flexor, and leg crossover.
Stretch your legs. After stretching your spine and core, work on your legs by performing a common leg stretch like the knee-to-chest stretch. To perform this stretch, lie on your back with your legs straight about hip-width apart (or with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor). Next, gently raise your right leg until your right knee is at your chest. Hold the knee with both hands, gently pressing it deeper into your chest. Perform the same stretch with your left leg and left knee (or opposite leg, if you started with the left), and repeat several times with each side. The knee-to-chest stretch also stretches your lower back.
Add focused stretches. After you stretch the main muscle groups, you can incorporate smaller stretches that focus on specific muscles or joints that you’ll use throughout the day. Neck stretches, arm stretches, wrist stretches, or ankle stretches are good options to add to a balanced routine.
3 Tips for Stretching Early in the Morning If you want to add a morning stretch to your wellness routine, here some tips to encourage a safe stretch:
Check in with your body. Pre-workout stretch routines often require a quick warm-up because stretching “cold,” or from a completely sedentary or resting state, can shock your muscles and cause undue strain or injury. However, upon waking up in the morning, your muscles may already be warm and relaxed since they’ve spent the whole night under the covers. Before you start a morning stretch routine, check in with your body and ensure that you’re feeling warm and loose; if not, do a quick warm-up—move around a bit, perform some breathing exercises, or take a quick walk to increase your heart rate and get the blood pumping to your muscles.
Opt for a gentle stretch. While you may wake up full of energy and feel tempted to engage in a strenuous morning stretch, stretching too hard too fast can increase your chances of strain or injury. When stretching first thing in the morning, aim for slow, steady movements, and immediately stop the stretch if you feel sharp pain or tension.
Breathe during each stretch. Deep breathing is an essential part of stretching because it helps relax your muscles and increase blood flow. As you perform each morning stretch, take a break and focus your attention on your inhales and exhales. You can even time your stretches to several breaths to help recenter yourself on your breathing.
3 Morning Stretches You Can Do in Bed Some people prefer performing a few stretches before getting out of bed to help reduce the chance of injury while standing up. Here are a few morning stretches that you can do safely without equipment from the comfort of your bed:
Child’s pose: Child’s pose (or forward fold) is a straightforward yoga pose that stretches the shoulders, spine, lower back, and tailbone. To perform child’s pose, get into a tabletop position (with both hands resting on the bed, ground, or yoga mat) and then gently lower your glutes until they’re resting on your heels and your upper body is touching the bed. Ensure your left and right hands are flat on the bed and stretched out above your head and shoulders for the best spine-lengthening effect. Hold for several deep breaths.
Spinal twist: Spinal twist is a common ground (or bed) stretching exercise that lengthens your spine and stretches your lower back, quadriceps, and hamstrings. To perform a spinal twist, begin by lying flat on your back with your legs straight about hip-width apart. Lift your right knee to your chest, and then gently press it across to the left side of your body. Finally, raise your right hand and extend it out to the right. Hold for several breaths, and repeat on the opposite side (with the left knee and right arm).
Knee-to-chest stretch: Knee-to-chest stretch is a back stretch that engages your spine, lower back, glutes, and quads. To perform the knee-to-chest stretch, move into the starting position, lying on your back with your legs straight and about hip-width apart (or with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor). Next, gently raise your right leg until your right knee is to your chest. Hold your knee with your hands and gently press it deeper into your chest. Perform the same stretch with your left leg and left knee, and repeat several times with each side.
If you feel pain or muscle strain during any of these stretches, stop immediately and consult physician, a licensed physical therapist, or certified personal trainer.
Written by the MasterClass staff at https://www.masterclass.com/articles/morning-stretches#3-tips-for-stretching-early-in-the-morning