The Best Stretches For Flexibility Will Benefit Your Body From Head To Toe
In college, I was in love with running. The satisfying challenge and feel-good endorphins that pounding the pavement provided me with were my absolute favorite. However, after entering half-marathon after half-marathon, I realized my muscles were so freaking tight that I had the flexibility of a flight reservation with a hefty rebooking fee. So, I began including stretches for flexibility into my daily routine in hopes that someday I would be able to accomplish the seemingly unachievable: touching my toes.
Flash forward a few years, and I'm a certified yoga teacher who enjoys routinely contorting herself into a pretzel. Miracles do happen, people! Except, it wasn't a miracle at all. It was just a whole lot of dedication to stretching my absurdly tense muscles on the reg.
If you have a goal of your own to become bendier, but everything from your outdoor runs, to your desk job, to that dreaded case of "text neck" (that plagues pretty much everyone with an iPhone) seem to be getting in the way, there are actually some pretty simple stretches you can regularly incorporate into your routine. Focusing on lengthening these five muscle groups will have you on your way to loosening up and lengthening out in no time.
1. Rejuvenating Neck Stretches
Upper body tension can be a real pain in the neck — pun intended.
I spoke to Kevin Ramsey, Lead Stretch Therapist for Massage Envy, who tells Elite Daily, "In my practice, I’ve found that the most beneficial stretches for flexibility are the ones that focus on stretching the major attachments in the body. Neck stretching is particularly important in our technology driven world."
Ramsey says that most people are constantly on the computer or an electronic device which pulls the neck and shoulders forward. Regularly including stretches for both the front and side of neck into your routine will relieve the tension that these activities cause.
2. Stress-Relieving Shoulder Stretches
As a yoga teacher, whenever I include shoulder stretching in my classes, it generally comes with satisfying sighs of relief as hunched backs are released after perpetually leaning over a desk all day long. When you sit for prolonged periods of time, you probably unknowingly take a little shoulder stretch to release tension in your upper bod.
According to Yoga Outlet, intentionally stretching your shoulders often will release bodily stress leading to less mental tension, which sounds pretty awesome. In addition, your upper back flexibility will soar. I know mine did.
3. Elongating Abdominal Stretches
TBH, the thought of stretching my abs never crossed my mind. But although many people neglect a nice tummy stretch, it's actually an amazing area to lengthen.
"Constantly being in a seated position affects the function in the abdominal area," Ramsey tells Elite Daily. "Stretching these areas not only helps to restore function, but also creates less resistance from tense and taught muscles."
The abdominal stretches included in the video above additionally stretch and expand your chest as well, so you'll be better able to breathe fully and expansively. See, getting more flexible actually benefits your bod more than you think.
4. "Hurts-So-Good" Hip Flexor Stretches
I'm sticking by the phrase "hurts-so-good" here, because whether you've just come back from a sweaty run or you've had your booty planted on a long car ride for hours, stretching your hip flexors will initially feel intense AF. However, once you breathe through the initial uncomfortable sensations, lengthening your hip flexors will inevitably provide so much relief that you'll want to come back for more.
Remember to listen to your body and take these stretches slow. Though it would be nice to become a wildly bendy version of yourself overnight, these things take time. Being patient with yourself, and your body's limitations will pay off in the long run.
5. Lengthening Hamstring Stretches
Ah, the hammies. The muscle group that everyone loves to hate stretching.
Ramsey says that if you're sitting a lot at work or at home, it effects the hamstrings in a negative way. "The hamstrings are another major area to focus on for increased flexibility," Ramsey advises. "A sedentary lifestyle cases these muscles to shorten and compress, which can lead to lower back pain."
Don't be afraid to use a yoga strap or something similar to help assist you when you're stretching your hamstrings. "Massage Envy's assisted stretch service helps ensure [clients] are stretching properly and it makes it easier to get through the challenges of stretching the hamstrings," Ramsey says.
Whether you're deep into those hammies at home or treating yourself to a massage, your lower bod will thank you for luxuriously lengthening it on the reg.