Fitness
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Stretching your limits

You’re more flexible than you think. Consider this series your remedy against the daily hustle.

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Stretching exercises awaken your body and mind—they’re also a physical and mental challenge. It’s easy to brush off, but taking the time to focus on relaxing your muscles has amazing benefits for your overall health.

For one thing, it helps improve flexibility and the range of motion in your joints, which in turn improves your performance and lowers your risk of injury. Stretching also increases blood flow to muscles and helps with recuperation after a workout.

Incorporating simple stretch movements and routines into your daily life can also help reduce unhealthy stress by releasing tension in the body and mind. Negative thinking, fear-based thoughts and worrying can all lead to tightness and inflexibility in the body as well as preventable disease and poor health.

It can also assist with depression and anxiety. Gentle stretching activates the release of some wonderful chemicals called endorphins, which trigger positive feelings and actually help to reduce pain.

When deciding how to incorporate stretching into your daily routine, consider adding a 15 to 20 minute stretch sequence to your existing exercise regime, or start and end your day with a total body stretch routine like the one shown here.

If you are new to stretching, start out slow. Be mindful of intentionally releasing mental and physical tension when in the midst of the each stretch, and breathe long, deep and slow. Never stretch to the point of pain and hold each stretch for a good 30 to 40 seconds. Repeat each stretch three to four times for maximum benefit.


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NECK CIRCLES
3 TO 4 CIRCLES
Stand up tall with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed down away from your ears. Circle the head toward the right shoulder, inhale as you stretch toward the back and exhaling as you come around to the front. Use the breath to release tension from tight areas. Repeat in the other direction.


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RAGDOLL
HOLD 30 TO 40 SECONDS
From a standing position, fold forward and reach toward your toes. Allow your head and neck to relax, and allow gravity to lengthen the spine. Grab on to each elbow and gently swing the body side-to-side to loosen up the lower back. You may feel your back crack with this one.

CHEST STRETCH
HOLD 30 TO 40 SECONDS
Stand up tall, lift your chest and relax your shoulders. Look straight ahead, keeping your chin level. Clasp your hands behind your back and slowly raise your arms until you feel a stretch throughout your chest and shoulders.


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SHOULDER STRETCH
HOLD 30 TO 40 SECONDS EACH SIDE
Reach your left arm across your body and hold it straight. With your right hand, grasp your left elbow and pull it in towards your chest and across your body.

QUADRICEPS STRETCH
HOLD 30 TO 40 SECONDS EACH SIDE
Start by standing up straight. Use a chair or wall for support if needed. Grasp your foot with one hand and gently pull your heel up and back until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Stand tall, keep knees together and avoid leaning to the side. Keep a slight bend in the sup-porting leg.


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CHILD’S POSE
HOLD FOR 1 MINUTE OR MORE
A Begin by sitting up straight on your knees, resting your buttocks on your heels. If you have tight hips, keep your knees and thighs together.
B Lean forward, draping your torso between or on top of your thighs. Allow your forehead to come to the floor. Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down. Press back slightly with your hands to keep your buttocks in contact with your heels.


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HAMSTRING STRETCH
HOLD 30 TO 40 SECONDS EACH SIDE
Lie down on the floor with legs and back straight. Suck your stomach in and extend your right leg up so that the sole of your foot is facing towards the ceiling. Hold your calf or thigh with both hands to deepen the stretch.


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BUTTERFLY POSE
Sit on the ground, with both knees bent and your feet together, knees out to the side. Use your muscles to press your knees down toward the floor. This will help to open your hips up even more. Lengthen your spine, drawing your belly button in. Relax your shoulders and gaze either in front of you or toward your feet. Hold 30—40 seconds.

Then slowly begin to fold forward, drawing your torso towards your legs. Remember to try and keep your spine straight. You can keep your hands on your feet, pressing your knees down with your arms, or if you want a deeper stretch, extend your arms out in front of you. Hold for another minute or longer.


Michelle Armstrong is the owner of onlinefitnessprogramsforwomen.com, which specializes in women’s health, fitness and overall wellbeing. She is a bestselling author, mindset expert, certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. Michelle is also a gifted soul coach, life coach and spiritual medium. Michelle’s latest book TRANSFORM is available online and at all major bookstores.

Nichelle Laus is a proud mom of 4 boys under the age of 8; she has trained and competed at an amateur level in both boxing and kickboxing for over 20 years. She is a certified personal trainer, kickboxing and kettlebell instructor, motivational speaker, and fitness and cover model. She is a Figure and Bikini competitor, and competition and transformation coach for Team Laus. She loves to teach and inspire others.

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Uploaded by Nichelle Laus and Michelle Armstrong