10 Easy Stretches to Relieve Your Stress

by Aileen

Part three of the three part Stress Release Series

In part one we looked at breathing deeply as a way to release stress. In part two we looked at the magical playground ball to relieve the tension in the muscles. Today we look at stretching the body finding a nice exhale for stress relief.

One of my favorite parts of Yoga is melting into a deep stretch, now that’s not necessarily what Yoga is all about, but it’s one my favorite perks. There are many stretches that we’ll see in a Yoga class and there are many we won’t find there.

Why stretch

Stretching gets the blood flowing, it improves circulation and relieves muscular tension. Use the stretch as an opportunity for deeper breathing and breathe into your stretch. You’ll find that not only is it relieving muscular tension it’s also releasing mental, emotional, psychological stress as well. Often after we stretch we feel better and have more energy.

How long should you stretch

It’s often recommended to keep active in your stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. I prefer a minute or longer, how ever long you linger in your stretch just be sure to keep it at least for 30 seconds. Since you’ve made the effort to stretch might as well gain the benefit of increasing your flexibility while you remain in that stretch a bit longer.

Stretches I recommend

It often surprises me when I hear someone say, “I know I should stretch but I don’t know how.” Today, we’ll look at 10 great stretches that help to relieve stress. Be kind to yourself it’s okay if you aren’t as flexible as you’d like to be. Do what you can and you will still reap the rewards.

This side stretch is  great to start with and to finish with. Be sure to stretch both your left and right side.

With this chest stretch, you simply clasp your hands behind you and lift your arms as high as you can.

Begin to fold forward as you lift your arms as high as they will go. You may prefer to have your knees bent or  you can keep them straight and feel a stretch in the hamstrings as well. It will depend on what feels best to you.

Release your arms and cross one foot over the other. Feel the release in your lower back as you hang down. After about 30 seconds or more be sure you change feet.

Now we get to use the ground. If your body is challenged and it doesn’t like to get back up off of the ground, feel free to use your bed. I know some people have a harder time getting to the ground and back up again. This stretch is often referred to as the Cat Stretch, it’s wonderful for the low back.

This is known as Child’s Pose. It’s another wonderful low back stretch. Kneel on the floor with knees about hip-width apart. Sit on your heels. Lay your torso on your thighs. Your arms can either be straight in front of you or by your sides.

This spinal twist has quite a few variations. You will find the ones you like best. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Slowly let your knees fall to the left as your head looks to the right and your right arm extends out to the side. One variation is straightening the bottom leg while keeping the top bent. Another variation is having the bottom leg bent while the top leg stretches. Be sure to twist in the opposite direction as well.

This one is called  Thread the Needle. you are on your back with your knees bent. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your ankle is past your thigh. In the photos I see the foot is stretched, ideally you will flex the foot in this stretch/pose. Pull your right knee in toward your chest, thread your left arm through the triangle between your legs and clasp your hands around the back of your right leg. After you hold the stretch for 3o seconds to a minute change legs and work the other side.

This is the seated twist. Sit cross-legged, right palm placed on the floor. Grab your right knee with your left hand and pull it toward your chest. Look over your right shoulder. After you hold this stretch be sure to do the other side.

With Plank pose you will really feel your core, your arms and your body wake up, when you hold  this for one minute. It’s invigorating. Do keep your shoulders above your wrists and keep your stomach lifted so you don’t let your back sway. It feels like your at the top of a push up and you can just stay there for a while, although you might only get to 30 seconds in the beginning.

This concludes the three part series for simple stress release. Hope you find yourself releasing stress daily. Please share your favorite ways to release stress.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie July 9, 2010

Love, love, love all these stretches. I learned many of them in yoga. Twists are great. Planks are fabulous for the core. You’ve reminded of some simple ways to get back at it. Thanks Aileen.
Katie´s last [type] ..5 Tips to Help You Get Back in the Game

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Jean Sarauer July 9, 2010

Thanks for this series, Aileen. I’m a stretcher by nature, yet I’m not as intentional with it as I could be. And since I’ve been sitting at this computer for over an hour, now would be a good time to do something about that . . .
Jean Sarauer´s last [type] ..How to Love Blogging When it Doesn’t Love You Back

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Leah McClellan July 9, 2010

Hi Aileen! Stretching is SO good! As soon as I read this I had to stretch because I needed it! Just in my seat here…first one I do is….arms. Sort of like your first one but seated.

Then….behind the back like your second pic. Then I usually do one that’s like your seated twist but it’s all in my big office chair with a big seat and arms that I can lift up on. Then I do a sort of lotus and pull one foot up on my thigh and scrunch up my back muscles and my neck back and forth while holding on the my ankle (pulling that about to my waist lol).

Then I do calves…then it feels so good I have to stand up and touch my toes and stretch the back and all that. Love the childs pose! That is the best for my back–I used to have such bad fibromyalgia (not any more-I got it under control in a bunch of ways), but still, stretching remains really important to me since my muscles tend to knot up very easily from stress.

Thanks so much for this important reminder!

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Clearly Composed July 9, 2010

Mmmmmmmm…stretching is one of my favorite things to do! Great job on this whole series. It’s been a doozy of a week here and I appreciated the tips and the energy you put into these posts. Thank you. :)

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Louise July 10, 2010

I too learned some of these stretches in yoga class BUT, so often forget to utilize them…..
I took advantage of your useful information and used the playground ball and 7 of the 10 stretches and what a wonderful feeling. I feel great!

Please keep up these fabulous tips.

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Preeti @ Heart and Mind July 10, 2010

Aileen,

I just found your blog from Hulbert’s recent interview, which was super cool btw. I am liking this series (I had to back read it), stretching is very important lesson that sometimes I forget to do. By seeing your step by step pictures it will be a good tips and reminder for me to do it, even though I may not exercise as much as I would like.
Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last [type] ..No Spend Month Challenge- Update 1

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Aileen July 15, 2010

Hi Preeti, thanks for visiting :)

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Manal July 11, 2010

Aileen,
I love everyone of the stretches you listed. If I were to come up with my own list, I won’t have chosen anything differently. I felt relaxed reading your post. Thanks for reminding me to do it. Off to RT and then stretch :)
Manal´s last [type] ..Is It Time to Stop Playing Catch-up

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Becca July 14, 2010

Wonderful! I love so many of these poses. It really brings energy and life to the body. Adding the breath is so nice to add with them too to take them even deeper. thanks for sharing!
Becca´s last [type] ..loving bigger than you know how

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Aileen July 15, 2010

Thank you for visiting and thanks for your comment Becca!

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Hulbert Lee July 14, 2010

Hey Aileen, really cool post on stretching and finding relief. Is that you in the pictures? If so, you are in great shape! I will have to try some of these out to relieve stress. The Thread The Needle one looks kind of difficult though, but I’ll give it a go. Awesome stuff, thank you!

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Aileen July 15, 2010

you might find that’s it’s easier than you think. :) and it’s a happiness booster

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Farnoosh July 18, 2010

Hi Aileen,
Stretching is so under-rated in this world. Thank you for putting this nice post up! My favorite part of yoga too is melting into deep long stretches – and hoping that the teacher holds them just a little longer. I find that with high intense cardio, stretching is even more important and yet something that sometimes falls by the wayside! Discipline, discipline! :)

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Aileen July 19, 2010

Thank you for your comment Farnoosh. Yes after intense cardio that feeling of ‘whew it’s over’ makes it a bit challenging to get into a stretch

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Keith Davis July 27, 2010

Hi Aileen
I’m the stiff one in the family – my sister can touch the floor with her elbows but I can barely touch my toes.
I understand the importance of stretching but struggle to find the time.
These stretches might tempt me to try and match my sister. LOL
Keith Davis´s last [type] ..A splash of colour

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Aileen July 29, 2010

Hi Keith, thanks for your comment :) I hope the stretches inspire you make it a new wonderful habit :) and then you can surprise your sister one day out of the blue :)

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Manuel Stefanick July 31, 2010

Appreciate the post. I know enough about the topic but am always happy to come across more information.

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