Full body stretching on a daily basis is important for preventing injuries and improving or maintaining flexibility. Flexibility is an important part of fitness and overall health. Daily activities would be much more challenging without the ability to bend over, twist, or squat. By incorporating a stretching program into your daily routine, you can increase your flexibility and range of motion. You can also improve performance in sports and daily tasks. Stretching can help prevent injury and decrease pain associated with muscle tightness.
Benefits of Daily Stretches
Every time you do a strength workout, little tears form in your muscles. If you don’t smooth the muscles out with stretches, they could grow unevenly and cause problems later on. Stretching keeps your muscles smooth and close to their original length (i.e. long and lean), which in addition to helping them grown evenly, helps you increase the range of motion in your joints.
Creating flexibility, especially if you are extra tight takes time. Be patient with yourself and do a little stretching every day, even if it’s just 5 minutes.
Daily Stretches to improve Flexibility
Try this daily stretching routine to prepare you for the busy day ahead, or to get some much needed relaxation after work. These moves are really great for relieving tension, improve mobility, boost core stability, and alleviate tightness in key areas, including your arms, shoulders, hips, and back. Many of them are associated with Yoga poses and if you are new to such movements we suggest using yoga props to help get your body into the correct position without unnecessary straining.
To maximize the mental and physical perks of this sequence, focus on breathing through each of the poses. Controlling your breath can help you keep your heart from racing.
You could take the mental benefits a step further by reciting gratitudes to yourself as you perform these stretches. Thinking about what you’re appreciative of as you gently move your body has great health benefits as it can help you stay present in the moment and prevent your mind from anxiously wandering.
1. Downward Facing Dog
The classic yoga pose stretches your chest, hamstrings, and back.
- Start on your hands and knees, with your hands stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Spread your hands wide and press your index finger and thumb into your mat.
- Lift your tailbone and press your butt up and back, drawing your hips toward the ceiling. Straighten your legs as best as you can and press your heels gently toward the floor.
- Your head should be relaxed between your arms, facing your knees. Your back should be flat.
- Hold for 60 seconds. (If you are a beginner try ‘walk out’ the dog by flexing your feet up and down and bending your legs. You can hold the pose for a shorter time to start and work your way up to longer.)
Cat-Cow is great for strengthening your spine. During the cow stretch it activates the tailbone, the spin’s root, while the cat stretch releases the tension of neck and upper back. The pose will also improve the blood flow in your spine.
- Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees.
- Inhale slowly, and then, on the exhale, round your spine and drop your head toward the floor (this is the cat posture).
- Inhale and lift your head, chest, and tailbone toward the ceiling as you arch your back for cow.
- Repeat this movement pattern for 30 seconds.
This stretch increases the flexibility of your spine. It also stretches your chest while strengthening your shoulders. You’ll notice that it firms and tones your shoulders, abdomen, and buttocks too.
- Lay face-down on the floor with legs extended behind you and rest the tops of your feet on the floor.
- Place your hands under your shoulders with fingers pointing forward and press your elbows into the sides of your body.
- As you inhale, press down through the tops of your feet and pubic bone, gently lifting your head and chest off the floor.
- Draw your shoulders back and away from your ears and don’t tense your neck.
4. Butterfly Stretch
This stretch is for the hips, glutes, back and thighs.
- Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to sides.
- Hold onto your ankles or feet, engage your abs, and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor.
- If you’re too tight to bend over, simply press your knees down or sit on a block.
- You can use your elbows to press down to further the stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
5. Standing Quad Stretch
Standing Quad Stretch improves flexibility in the quadriceps and hip flexors. It also helps release tension in the lower back and hips. This pose soothes stiffness in the spine and legs, and improves posture. It also tones the abdominal muscles.
- Stand with your feet together.
- Bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt. Keep your knees together.
- If you need to, put one hand on a wall for balance.
- Squeeze your glutes to increase the stretch in the front of your legs.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Repeat on the other leg.
6. Lunging Hip-Flexor Stretch
The hip flexor is a group of muscles that allow you to bend at the waist and lift your knees. Stretching your hip flexors keeps your hips and lower back strong, flexible and well aligned.
- Kneel on one knee. Place the opposite foot flat in front of you, front thigh parallel to the floor, ankle underneath your knee.
- Hold this position or, for a deeper stretch, lean forward, stretching your hip toward the floor (just make sure your knee doesn’t extend over your ankle).
- Squeeze your butt; this will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more.
- For an even deeper stretch, reach up with the arm on the same side as the knee on the floor.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
If your grounded knee hurts, put a towel or doubled-over yoga mat under it for extra cushion.
7. Forward Fold
This stretches the entire backside of the body – from head to heels. Feel free to relax in this pose with heavily bended knees and use the weight of your body to dangle.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Straighten your legs out as much as you can without locking your knees and let your torso hang down.
- Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and extend the crown of your head toward the floor to create a long spine.
- Depending on your flexibility, your hands will touch the floor or dangle above floor level. You can hold onto each elbow with the opposite arm or let your arms hang separately.
- You should feel a stretch in your back and hamstrings.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
For a deeper release of tension in the back and hamstrings, place a block underneath your hands and press into it.
8. Seated Spinal Twist
Seated Spinal Twist is a restorative yoga pose that promotes good digestion and encourages spinal mobility. Twisting postures help tone the belly, massage internal organs and can help relieve lower back pain. Take your time to ease into this stretch; don’t yank your spine. Use your eyes looking in the distance to move your body in the direction you want to turn.
- Sit up straight on your butt with your legs crossed. Make sure you’re not rounding your pelvis.
- Place your left arm on your right knee and your right arm behind you, fingers on the ground facing away from your body.
- Inhale and elongate your spine, then exhale and rotate to the right. Your goal is to look over your right shoulder while also keeping both shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
9. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is the perfect pose to release tension and maintain hip flexibility because it stretches both the hip rotators and the hip flexors. Pigeon pose helps to elongate the back, open the hips, groin and hamstrings as well as alleviate pressure on the lower back.
- From a kneeling position, get into Downward Facing Dog and extend your right leg high behind you. Then bring your right leg underneath your body and place it in front of you with your shin parallel to the top of your mat. (The goal isn’t to create an L-shape with your right leg; your foot can be tucked as close to your hips as needed.)
- Extend your left leg long behind you and rest the top of your foot on the mat.
- Keep your right foot flexed and try to keep your pelvis neutral and your left hip as close to the mat as you can. If your hip lifts off the floor, bring your right foot a little closer to your body.
- You should feel a stretch in your right hip. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
To make sure your pelvis stays neutral, place a block or pillow underneath your externally rotated hip. You can also place a pillow or block underneath the knee on your straight leg to alleviate any pain. For a deeper stretch, lean your torso forward and rest your forehead on the ground, arms framing your face or resting at your sides.
10. Lying hamstring stretch
This stretch keeps the back of your thigh and calf muscles long and stretches your lower back. To make this stretch easier, allow the extended leg to have a slight bend. Use a band to help you hold your leg extended. To make the stretch harder, keep the leg straight and pull your thigh closer to your chest.
- Lay on your back with one leg extended on the floor and the other extended straight up above the hip joint, toes pulled towards the chin.
- Grab your raised thigh with your hands and pull it towards your chest. Breathe slowly while keeping your core engaged and extend the stretch deeper with every exhale.
- Hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds then repeat with the other leg.
11. Lying torso twist
The lying torso twist stretches your hips, groin, and lower back muscles, increasing mid-back mobility while opening chest.
- Lay on your back with legs extended straight.
- Bring your left knee towards your chest, then guide it across your body to the right with help from your right hand placed outside of left knee.
- Stretch your left arm out to the side and look towards your left hand. Breathe slowly and deepen the stretch with every exhale.
- Hold stretch for at least 20 seconds and repeat with right knee.
12. Child’s Pose
This is a wonderful stretch to relieve tension in the chest, back and shoulders. It helps to lengthen the spine and a great pose to do in-between exercises to calm the mind and regain composure.
- Get into a kneeling position with your knees hip-distance apart and feet together behind you.
- Take a deep inhale, and on the exhale lay your torso over your thighs, pressing your butt onto your heels and reaching your arms forward.
- Think about lengthening your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
- Rest your forehead on the mat. You should feel a stretch on your backside and possibly in your hips. You may also feel a stretch in your arms if they are straight in front. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
If you feel any back pain in this position, bring your knees closer together.
These are our 12 favorite daily stretches to improve flexibility. A daily stretching routine can have physical and mental benefits for people of all ages. Stretching keeps the muscles loose, which lowers the chance of sprains and strains.
Remember to honor your limits to avoid injuries. People should see a doctor or physical therapist if stretching causes pain, as this may indicate an underlying problem.