When you’ve already devoted an hour or more to your workout, it can be mighty tempting to skip stretching. But developing your flexibility is an essential part of a balanced regimen. Although the payoff is less obvious than, say, running a faster pace thanks to speed intervals or being able to lift that weight you used to struggle with, stretching does the body good in its own quiet, subtle way. It can improve range of motion, help boost circulation, and quiet your racing thoughts, and that mind-body connection can have a powerful impact on your well-being. Try these essential stretches daily, even on your rest days, and you’ll find yourself limbering up slowly but surely and performing better in your favourite sport and workouts.
What it stretches: Shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
Begin on all fours, hands and knees. Spread your palms wide, stack your shoulders you’re your wrists, with knees hip-distance apart. Curl the toes under and raise your body up and back, lifting your hips high as you straighten your legs. Reach your heels towards the mat. Hold and breathe for five breaths. Repeat three times.
What it stretches: Hips, glutes, and quadriceps
From your last downward dog, step your right foot forward and place it beside your right hand with your knee over your ankle. Lower your left knee to the floor. Raise your torso and sweep your arms overhead with palms facing in, and shift your gaze up for a soft backbend. Repeat with left leg.
What it stretches: Hips, glutes, and lower back
Lay on a mat and bend one knee. Place your other ankle on the thigh of your bent leg. With both hands, pull the bent leg towards your chest. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
Lying Spinal Twist
What it stretches: Piriformis, glutes, and lower back
Lying on your back, bring your arms out so your body is in a T position. Bend the right knee and place the right foot on the left knee. Drop the right knee over to the left side of your body, twisting the spine and low back and with shoulders flat on the ground. Gently face the right as you stretch. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other leg.
What it stretches: Back, spine, and neck
Start in tabletop position, with your hands under your shoulders and knees hip-width apart. Keep your neck neutral with your gaze down. For cow pose, inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, gaze up towards the ceiling, and draw your shoulders away from your ears. Move into cat pose: exhale and draw your belly to your spine and round your back towards the ceiling. Release the crown of your head towards the floor, gently tucking your chin. Repeat five times.
What it stretches: Trapezius muscles
While seated, with your head turned slightly to your left knee and your left hand over your head, gently assist leaning your head toward your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three times on both sides.
Cross-Body Triceps Stretch
What it stretches: Triceps
Stand and pull one elbow across your body towards the opposite shoulder. Using the other hand, pull your elbow closer to your shoulder. Hold to one side for 15 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Overhead Triceps Stretch
What it stretches: Triceps
Lift your right arm over your head, bending your elbow so that your hand reaches downwards towards the middle of your back. With your left hand, grasp your right elbow and pull it gently towards your left side. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.