If you think about most of the movies you’ve ever seen where they show someone waking up first thing in the morning, it’s usually followed by them sitting up to have a big yawn and stretch. The reality is, many people start their day hitting the snooze button before rolling out of bed feeling slow, stiff and sore, and not at all ‘perked’ up for the day.
Taking even 5 minutes out of the day – whenever that may be – to stretch and move slowly and consciously, can have an enormously positive impact not only on your physical wellbeing, but your mental wellbeing to.
Stretching first thing in the morning is a great way to wake up and get all those mood-enhancing endorphins flowing before you enter your day. Stretching in the evening or before bed can be a great way to slow the nervous system down, quieten down your thoughts, and prepare the body for sleep. Stretching any time of the day can be helpful if you are feeling tired, anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or just feeling disconnected.
Stretching activates your parasympathetic nervous system while increasing the blood flow to your muscles. At the same time, it helps flush out stored emotions and frenetic energy, while releasing endorphins that help to reduce pain and enhance your mood. It can also help improve mobility and flexibility – limited movement can have an impact on the level of our wellbeing.
“Flexibility makes buildings to be stronger, imagine what it can do for your soul”.
These 5 stretches or moves are a great place to start. Don’t focus on getting them perfect – just focus on the purpose of the move itself.
CHILD’S POSE (balasana)
Child’s pose is one of the simplest stretching positions that can help relax and soothe the mind. In this pose, you rest your forehead (third chakra) on the floor, which has an instant calming effect and helps promote mindfulness.
- Begin by sitting in a kneeling position and reaching your body forward towards the floor. Your chest should rest on your thighs and your forehead on the floor.
- Choose to stretch your arms forward, or if you prefer, keep your arms long by your side with your palms facing upwards.
- Close your eyes if you wish and take some deep, long breaths. You can hold this pose for as long as you like.
UP DOG (urdhva mukha svanasana)
Take a moment to notice your posture. Are your shoulders slightly forward? Is your back slightly hunched? Up Dog is a fantastic countermeasure for what’s known as the “office slump”. By opening the chest, heart and lungs, you’re expanding vs contracting yourself and invigorating the nervous system, which in turn can help lift and enhance your mood.
- Begin by lying on your stomach, arms bent with your hands resting near or under shoulders, palms flat on the floor. Have your legs extended out behind you with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure your toes are untucked.
- Keep your elbows close to your sides, take an inhale and push up as you roll the tops of your shoulders back, lift your chest and slightly raise your chin and gaze to the ceiling (if you can).
- Aim to straighten your arms and keep the tops of your feet down on the floor as you lift your torso and legs off the floor.
- Breathe and hold for as long as you feel comfortable before slowly lowering yourself back down to the floor. Repeat as desired.
DOWN DOG (adho mukha svanasana)
One of the most popular and common stretches, Downward Facing Dog can benefit our emotional wellbeing, too. You literally turn your world on its head, allowing you to see things from a different angle. Your head is also lower than your heart, allowing a tremendous amount of blood flow to enter and revitalise the brain. This, in turn, can help relieve stress and fogginess, and boost your energy and mood.
- Begin on all fours in a table position, palms flat on the floor, arms straight and shoulder width apart.
- Tuck your toes under, spread your fingers wide, and press into your hands as you gently begin to lift your hips up toward the ceiling.
- Aim to bring your chest towards your legs, keeping your legs and feet hip-width apart, with your tailbone lifted toward the ceiling. Try to press your heels back onto the floor. Keep your back flat.
- Allow the head and neck to hang freely as you breathe and hold for as long as you feel comfortable, before slowly lowering yourself back down to the table position. Repeat as desired.
*Once you feel confident, you can also flow between Up Dog and Down Dog.
HAPPY BABY (ananda balasana)
The name says it all! Have you ever watched a baby hold this pose and not look happy? It’s a gentle and soothing pose that’s great for increasing relaxation. While it’s great for releasing any spine tension, it can also awaken your inner child and play, making it a real mood booster.
- Begin by lying on your back and as you take an inhale, bring both knees into your chest.
- Bring your arms through the insides of the knees and use your hands to hold on to the outside edge of each foot (pinkie toe side).
- Tuck your chin into the chest and keep the back of your head on the floor. Press your heels up and pull back with your arms. Aim to keep your back flat on the floor.
- Breathe and hold for as long as you feel comfortable, before exhaling and releasing your arms and legs back onto the floor.
SHAKE, DANCE, & TWIRL
This move is simply for the fun and joy of it, as well as being a mood enhancer. From playing musical bobs as a kid, to dancing at school discos to hitting the dance floor at parties and events.
When we dance our brain releases those feel-good endorphins, which can trigger neurotransmitters that create a feeling of comfort, relaxation, fun, power, and play. Don’t like dancing? The act of just ‘shaking’ out the body can help ease an overstimulated nervous system, calm the body back down, loosen any tension and literally help shake the stress away.
There are no instructions here – just do what feels right and good for you! Feel free to pop some music on as you do this.
If you have any questions or queries you’d love to have answered, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be more than happy to help.
Want more practical strategies and ideas to cultivate wellness into your life? Reach out to us at email@example.com to find out more about how Happiness Co can help.
Holistic Health Coach & Wellness Coordinator at Happiness Co