Stretching for Stress Management

It is safe to say that nearly everyone deals with some amount of stress on a daily basis. Jobs, bills, health, family, social media and the list goes on and on. It is no secret that exercise and even a little stretching can be used to combat some of our daily stressors. Many people look to yoga, pilates or even weight lifting to refocus the day or the current mood.

Why does stretching reduce your stress?

Perhaps the easiest, simplest and cheapest way to start reducing your stress is by stretching. According to Harvard Health, there is a neurochemical component when you add exercise and stretching to your daily regimen. Chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline are reduced, while your body’s natural painkillers, like endorphins, are released into the body. Many people experience relaxation and optimism following a good workout session.

Beyond the chemical, there’s always of course behavioral factors as well. By stretching and exercising, you tend to lose weight, gain stability and muscle strength. This can lead to increased self- confidence, pride and a sense of renewed vigor. The time you spend focusing on stretching and exercising is also a great way to escape it all for even just a few minutes. It is a great distraction from any daily struggles.

Moving on to the actual stretches, keep in mind that if you have any concerns about beginning a stretching program, you should of course always consult with your doctor first. Any injuries you may have could require a different approach to certain stretches. Be safe and have fun.

Neck Stretches

You might one of millions of people that hold a lot of stress in your neck. It is very common for people to have tight neck muscles and almost not even realize it. There are very simple neck stretches you can perform daily, even at your work desk if need be. Keep in mind that while they can be performed in any chair, you want to keep your alignment straight. Slouching will not help you release the tension.

Neck Stretch #1: Ear to Shoulder
As simple as it sounds, you will touch either your right ear to your right shoulder or left ear to left shoulder. Be sure to bring the ear to the shoulder and not let the shoulder rise up. You can place one hand on your head to increase the range of motion. You should feel the stretch along the opposite side of your neck.

Neck Stretch #2: Rotation
With this stretch, you will rotate your neck to the left or to the right while gazing over your shoulder. Again, keep your posture in proper alignment and shoulders relaxed.

Neck Stretch #3: Behind the Back Stretch
For this stretch, you will want to stand up, however, you will not need a ton of room. Have your feet hip distance apart with soft knees. With both hands by your sides, reach them behind you and use your right hand to grab your left wrist. Begin to straighten your left arm and pull it away from your body slightly. You can perform this stretch for 30 seconds and always be sure to switch sides.

Yoga Stretches

Whether you are a yoga guru or you are just curious what the craze is all about, yoga poses are an incredible tool to use when stretching for stress management. Some of the most basic poses can really give your body a great stretch! Try these on for size.

Upward Dog
In this stretch, you will be focusing on opening up your chest and spine. At the same time, you will notice a stretch in your arms and wrists. As you can see in this picture, your shoulders align directly above your wrists and your thighs rise above the mat. Be sure to not curl your toes as this can crunch your spine. Lastly, keep your shoulders back and down from your ears with your heart facing forward.

Downward-Facing Dog
Perhaps the most easily recognizable pose in all of yoga, Downward Facing Dog really gives stretch to your hamstrings, glutes, calves, arches, hands and spine. You can really get your blood flowing and your awaken your body in this simple, mild inversion. Check out the picture to see the basics of this move. Keep in mind that you want your fingers spread open and facing forward, with your weight evenly distributed across all fingers. Keep your ears aligned with your upper arms with your head relaxed, but not dangling.

Child’s Pose
Often used as a resting pose, Child’s Pose can feel amazingly therapeutic. There are many small variations of this pose you can do to stretch any part of your body that feels tight. The picture represents the most basic pose. Extending your arms more forward can release tightness.

Things to keep in mind

There are literally hundreds of stretches that you can use daily to release any stress or tension you might be experiencing. You always want to consult with your doctor before starting any new routine if you are worried about an injury or your body in general. Stretching should also never be painful. You want to go slowly and be gentle with your body. Repetition is what will help you reach your goals. Lastly, don’t forget to breathe! Your breath can help you extend into a nice stretch and relax the muscles you are working to release.

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