Increasing your overall level of flexibility provides a number of important benefits to your physical and mental health. Being more flexible can improve your posture, allow you to move with greater ease, reduce muscle tension and soreness, reduce your risk of injury and help you achieve a more relaxed mental state. Stretching on a regular basis can help you achieve greater flexibility and help your body prepare for other types of exercise.
Stand facing a sturdy chair for support. Hold the chair with your right hand and balance on your right leg. Bend your left knee, bringing your left foot as close to your buttocks as possible. Reach around with your left hand to pull the heel closer to your buttocks until you feel a moderate stretch across the front of your leg. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then release and repeat on your right leg.
Forward Bend with Hands Clasped
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Align your head and neck with your spine. Relax your shoulders and broaden your chest. Inhale and bend forward from your hips, folding forward as far as you can without pain or strain, until you feel a decent stretch in your hamstrings. Bend your knees slightly if necessary, otherwise, keep your legs as straight as possible. Let your head and neck hang loosely. Clasp your hands behind your back. Raise your arms up toward the ceiling, keeping your arms straight, until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulder area. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to one minute, then release your arms and return to a standing position.
Stand 3 feet away from a wall. Place your hands flat on the wall at chest height and lean forward by bending your elbows to support your body weight. Keep your hips facing forward and your body straight. Do not bend at your waist. Press your feet into the floor -- avoid lifting your heels. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then press your body back up to standing.
Stand with your arms raised out in front of you at shoulder height. Bend your right elbow across your chest, bringing your right hand behind you to touch your left shoulder blade. Use your left hand to press the right elbow back, increasing the stretch. Hold the stretch for a few breaths, then release and repeat on the opposite side.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Align your head, neck and spine. Relax your shoulders. Inhale and raise your right arm straight up over your head. Reach as high as you can. Exhale and bend over to your left, keeping your torso and hips facing forward. Bend until you feel a moderate stretch along your right side and waist. Hold the stretch for a few breaths. On an inhale, return to standing, and repeat on your left side.
Neck Side Bend
Stand or sit in a comfortable position with your shoulders relaxed and your head facing forward. Inhale and slowly drop your left ear to your left shoulder, feeling a stretch along the entire right side of your neck and right shoulder. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Perform this stretch 10 times.
- American Council on Exercise: Flexible Benefits
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Warm Up, Cool Down and Be Flexible
- Core Power Yoga: Five Poses for Opening Your Shoulders
- ShapeFit.com: Stretching Exercises for Flexibility
- Yoga Learning Center: Standing Side-Stretch
- PhysioAdvisor.com: Neck Stretches
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.