On this National Stress Awareness Day let’s pledge to do be proactive with our health!
Instead of getting bogged down by stress - try these 5 simple stretches to soothe anxiety and tension.
We’ve all experienced stress. It may seem like just a part of life. But, did you know that chronic stress can lead to having a higher chance of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes?! It's time to take our stress seriously and learn to manage it effectively!
National Stress Awareness Day is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the effects of stress, and how to best fight it. Stretching can be one solution for relieving stress - helping not just your mind, but your body too. By taking the time to stretch you allow your thoughts to wind down as you focus on your breathing and elongating your muscles and joints. Stretching is a great stress management tool for anyone on a budget or on the go - it is free, doesn’t require any special equipment, and can be done anywhere, from your bedroom to the office!
Below, Dale Noelle demonstrates 5 of her favorite stretches that can be done anywhere and anytime to help manage and reduce stress!
1. Constructive Rest:
Lay down on your back with your feet planted flat on the floor, hip width apart, about one foot from your seat. Your arms should be resting gently by your sides.This position is called Constructive Rest and it is from Alexander Technique, a body-awareness technique used by dancers. You can prop a flat pillow under your head or lower back for comfort, as long as your spine still remains relatively flat on the ground.The point of Constructive Rest is to elongate your spine with gravity and to meditate. To progress the Constructive Rest position, place the base of your spine up against a wall, and extend your feet upwards so that your legs are straight, then cross your elbows over your chest, hugging yourself gently. This allows blood to circulate, refreshing swollen feet and calming tired muscles.
2. Ragdoll Pose:
While standing with your legs straight, bend at the waist until your hands are touching the ground, or as close as they can be to touching the ground. Then interlock your hands behind your neck while letting your elbows drop forward. This position uses gravity and the weight of your arms to elongate your neck and release tension from your jaw and lower back. Hold this pose no longer than 30 seconds, finishing by slowly rolling up through your spine to a standing position. The Ragdoll Pose and/or the Hanging Neck Stretch has been credited with a number of health benefits including: calming the brain, relieving stress, improving digestions, reducing fatigue and anxiety, and more!
3. Pigeon Pose:
This yoga pose opens up the hips and promotes deep breathing. To get into the pose, bend one leg into a 90 degree angle and stretch your other leg behind you. Slowly relax over your bent leg, supporting yourself with your arms on the floor or using yoga blocks to prop yourself up. Hold this pose for one minute on each side while focusing on your breath. The point of pigeon pose is not to stretch your hips so much that you feel pain, but to counter the tightness of the hips. If you are having difficulty getting your leg into the 90-degree position, it's fine to bend your knee more to make the stretch easier. You can also use yoga blocks to prop help prop yourself up.
4. Tension Relieving Neck Stretch:
The Tension Relieving Neck Stretch (or the Sternocleidomastoid Stretch) releases tension in your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, which runs from below your ear to just below your shoulder blade. It also stretches along the front of your arms. This is a great stretch to do while sitting at your desk. Start by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Place your right arm under your upper thigh with your palm flat on the seat of the chair. Take a deep breath and turn your head to the left; you should feel a stretch along your neck and arm. Hold stretch for 20 seconds before repeating on the other side.
5. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch:
The stair stretch is great to do on-the-go. You can you use a staircase or even a large curb to practice this stretch! Start by standing on a stair (make sure you are not on a main level so that you will be able to press your foot down so that it extends over the edge of the stair). Next, plant one foot firmly on a stair about 2 stairs higher than where you are standing - your knee should be bent at 90 degrees. Be sure to hold onto a railing to steady yourself and adjust your back foot so that your heel is extended beyond the stair (like in the picture above). Keep your body aligned and balanced. You should feel the stretch through your calves and feet, which feels especially nice after walking around the city all day! Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds on each side.