from Solutions Counseling & EAP
by Keri Forbess-McCorquodale, MS, LPC, LMFT, CEAP
This is the last article in my series of sharing with you the things I have been doing to try to keep from drowning these days. And the struggle is real, let me tell you!
In the last two months, we have discussed meditation, breathing techniques, body scanning, muscle relaxation, visualization and gratitude focus. This month, I want to share with you my new favorite daily activity: STRETCHING.
Yes, you read that correctly. Yoga introduced me to the importance of stretching. Turns out I like getting out of bed without moaning and groaning. I also like having something I can do throughout the day when my back is aching from sitting too long. Yes, I know when you stretch, you aren’t “being still,” as the title of the article suggests, but this series has been all about re-centering yourself. And stretching helps me tune in, remember to breathe, and generally feel better. I’m hoping it will help you do the same!
So, here are some easy stretches for you to consider incorporating into your daily routine:
Neck and Shoulder Rolls. Slowly, very slowly, roll your neck in one direction, then the other. Pause for a couple of breaths at any place that is tight or tense. Then, roll your shoulders forward and backward, pausing and breathing again in those tight places. So many of us carry our stress in the neck/shoulder region.
Forward Folds. My favorite! Stretch your arms up as high as you can (I even stand up on my tiptoes), then fold down and reach for your toes. Note – I never reach my toes or the floor on the first try. Let your torso hang as you feel your spine starting to stretch. Grab your opposite elbows and continue to hang, swaying slowly side to side. Now, reach for your toes again. You’ll be closer! Once I finally reach the floor with my hands, I slowly walk them from side to side to the outsides of my feet, stretching out my side body.
You can also do Forward Folds in the seated position (maybe while you are at work, hint, hint). Or you can stretch out your legs on the floor and reach forward towards your toes. The main thing for all three stretches is that you fold at the crease of your hips instead of hunching your back.
Butterfly Poses. Yep, just like you remember from gym class. Sit on the floor with your feet together and knees apart. Hold your feet while you lean forward. You can also bring your feet closer to you. Remember to breathe and hold the position a bit. Butterflies are great for stretching out hip flexors, inner thighs, and your back.
Chest Openers. Great for relieving tension in your shoulders and back. Bring your arms behind your back, interlace your fingers, and pull your shoulders back to stretch your arms backward. This is another one you can do in your office chair.
Cat-Cow. Another favorite of mine. Get down on your hands and knees. Curl your toes under, arch your back and look up – you’re a cow! Now, uncurl your toes, round your back towards the ceiling and look down – you’re a cat! Do several repetitions, breathing in for Cow and breathing out for Cat. Anytime my back is hurting, I do some Cat-Cows and Forward Folds and start feeling better.
I really encourage you to incorporate stretching into your daily routine, if your medical provider approves. Many of us have been working to survive these last several months. We are tired, and so “over it.” I’m not even surprised anymore when things do not go according to plan. That’s just how it is these days. The things I have shared with you the last three months are the way I have kept it together (well, semi-together, anyway) during these trying times. I’m happy to share them with you and hope you find them useful as well.