*Always consult your doctor before commencing any new exercise or stretching.
*If it hurts don't do it! (Sharp, painful burning or tingling sensations are NOT ok).
*BREATHE- If you don't breathe and relax, the body's sympathetic nervous system (flight/fight response) is activated. We want slow deep breathing to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest response) so that our bodies feel safe to relax and stretch.
*Keep the integrity of your posture, making sure the "body box" is square and that all joints are aligned and supported. Activate your core, drawing your navel in and up.
*Trust (and listen to) your body's timing.
Chest Opener with Foam Roller
Carrying heavy bags, reading, texting, computing, and even hugging your loved ones can tighten the pecs and create neck and shoulder tension.
One simple way to open up is by lying lengthwise on the foam roller from head to tail.
Place the soles of the feet on the floor hip distance apart, arms extended outwards creating a 90 degree angle at your shoulders.
Allow the elbows and hands to relax as you practice deep breathing while gravity works its magic.
Tips: Use your breath to engage your core, gently softening your ribs toward the roller. If the stretch is too intense for your chest or shoulders, prop up your elbows with a pillow under each arm. If you are feeling discomfort in your neck, place a small folded hand towel or pillow under the head for support.
Chest Opener without Foam Roller
If you don't have a foam roller, you can open your chest at the wall.
Make sure your upper arm is parallel to the floor and roll your shoulder blades down into your back pocket.
Again, integrity of alignment and posture is important from head to tail so scoop your navel, lengthen the spine, and make sure you keep the roof of your mouth parallel to the floor so the crown of the head floats up like helium balloon (no "pecking" your head forward).
Psoas Stretch with Foam Roller
Sitting (on planes, trains, automobiles, and sitting in general) can wreak havoc on one's body. It shortens the psoas and can create discomfort in the lower back, hips, and legs.
This is my favorite way to stretch the Psoas:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place the foam roller perpendicular to your mat and body near your buttocks.
Press into your feet to lift the pelvis and roll the foam roller under the lower part of the sacrum (boney plate of lower back).
Hug the right knee toward the chest, close to the trunk of your body.
Allow the left leg to extend slightly or all the way. Gently scoop your abdominals and squeeze your left "underbutt." Breathe, relax, enjoy, and stay present with your sensations.
Trust your body to tell you when to switch sides. Do so by bending the left knee to meet the right. SLOWLY extend the right leg forward as you settle into the stretch.
No foam roller, no problem! If you have access to a sturdy elevated surface like a table, you can lie on the table with your back supported and your leg hanging off the edge. No sturdy surface, check out the kneeling version. *Note: You should NOT feel strain in your lower back if the roller/table/core is in the correct position.
Psoas Stretch Without Foam Roller
Pad up the knees if you are sensitive and have a wall or piece of furniture nearby for balance.
Keep your body box aligned (shoulder over shoulder, hip over hip, shoulders over hips), and make sure your front knee is aligned over the ankle so you form a 90 degree angle at the hips and knees.
Keep the integrity of your posture and alignment throughout the stretch by gently scooping your abdominals in and up while engaging the whole core including the buttocks.
To deepen the stretch, imagine the front and back of your torso are in between two panes of glass, then reach up and over to laterally bend away from the kneeling side.
The hamstrings can become quite tight during travel and can create tension in the lower back making it difficult to sit upright. You can do this stretch through a doorway, at the corner of a wall, or with a simple strap or belt around the foot in the center of a room.
Lie on your back with your buttocks close to the wall (closer=more stretch).
Extend your right leg up the wall (or door frame) as your left leg extends down along the floor (or across the threshold).
Lengthen your pubic bone toward your tail and weight your sitting bones toward the floor ("J-Lo" your buttocks into the mat). A little space between your lower back and the floor is great! Reach your right sitting bone toward the wall, and hug the wall (your midline) with your left inner thigh.
Imagine a bungee cord attached from right hip to left heel. (This will help keep your hips and body box square).
Flex your toes back toward your shins to feel the whole back of the leg including the calf muscles. Breathe, relax, and trust your body's timing to unwind before changing sides.
Figure 4 Stretch
If you've ever taken a session with me, you know I am a HUGE fan of the "figure 4" or piriformis stretch.
This stretch can help ease and prevent sciatica while releasing the lower back and hips. I like to do it against the wall so that I can just fall back and relax into it w/o creating tension in my shoulders and neck.
To get into it, lie on your back supporting head/neck if needed, with your buttocks fairly close to the wall. (Closer to the wall= more stretch).
Take both legs straight up the wall and take a couple of breaths here to let the pelvis get heavier.
Flex your right ankle bringing your toes back toward your shin to protect your knee.
Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and slowly start to bend the left leg, sliding the foot down the wall until you feel a stretch. Make sure to keep your tail dropped down toward the floor (a little arch in your lower back is ok here).
Again, keep the integrity of your alignment and make sure your left knee is in alignment with your left hip and shoulder. Breathe, relax, release and enjoy!