Sitting all day is necessary for many people, thanks to days spent commuting and sitting at a desk. But excessive sitting can shorten and tighten the hamstrings and hip flexors, creating misalignment in the pelvis and lower back pain. A regular stretching routine can help counteract some of these negative effects, while also providing much needed relaxation after a long day at work.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Downward Facing Dog Pose stretches the hamstrings and relieves tension from the spine, while also strengthening the arms and core muscles. Start on all fours, with your wrists below your shoulders and your toes tucked. Lift from your abdominal muscles and straighten your arm, dropping your heels toward the floor. Keep your fingers pressed into the floor to take pressure off your wrists. Bend your knees at first and focus on lengthening your spine. Straighten your legs as you acclimate to the stretch. Hold for at least five breaths.
Spinal Flex on Heels
This simple exercise stretches the spine and opens the chest. Sit on your heels with your hands resting on your thighs. Concentrate on your breathing and inhale as you arch your spine forward, keeping your head and shoulders relaxed. Exhale and move your spine backward. Repeat, breathing deeply, for several minutes. It may also feel good afterward to shrug your shoulders up and down your back several times to further remove tension from your shoulders and upper body.
Reclining Hero Pose
Reclining Hero pose relieves achy, sore legs, stretching deep into the hip flexors, as well as the thighs, knees and ankles. Start by sitting on your heels. Move your feet from under you so that your ankles are pressed up against your outer hips. Lengthen your spine upward and use your hands to push gently on your tailbone to help it tuck under. Lean backward so that you lie lengthwise onto a pillow, or if you are flexible enough, onto the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
Happy Baby Pose
Happy Baby is a calming pose that stretches the hamstrings and hips, as well as the inner groin and spine. Lie flat on your back and hug your knees up toward your heart. Put your arms in between your legs and hold onto your toes or ankles. Guide your legs open, keeping them bent, so your knees reach up toward your armpits. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. You may remain still, or you can rock gently from side to side to massage your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
Michelle Wishhart is a writer based in Portland, Ore. She has been writing professionally since 2005, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for City on a Hill Press, an alternative weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, Calif. An avid gardener, Wishhart worked as a Wholesale Nursery Grower at Encinal Nursery for two years. Wishhart holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts and English literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.