Have you ever woken up with the mindset of being ready to tackle the day…but your body feels the total opposite? We often wake up with stiff muscles and stiff joints, which prompts an almost automatic response to stretch.
But what are the best stretches to do immediately after waking up? Are some more beneficial than others?
According to Harvard, there are select set of exercises you should do to make sure your body is ready to take on the challenges of the day ahead.
The benefits of stretching
We all know stretching feels good after a long night’s sleep, but how does it actually benefit us? According to Harvard Health’s Dr. Beth Frates, it goes beyond just the physical satisfaction of relief from a stiff back or neck.
“Stretching before getting out of bed can help wake up the body and improve the circulation. It can also turn on the parasympathetic system – the ‘rest and digest’ system — which puts us in a more relaxed state right when we get out of bed, helping set the tone for a calm morning and day,” said Frates.
Similar to before you begin exercising, it’s important to warm up your body.
Doing some simple shoulder rolls, looking from left to right and flexing your wrists up and down are all simple warmups, according to Frates.
Doing these small movements can help lubricate joints and get the blood flowing.
Harvard Health states that a full-body stretch with a resistance band is a good way to begin your stretching routine. Frates recommends using a resistance band to pull above your head.
Then, lying on your back, extending both legs and holding the band a shoulder-distance apart. Place your hands across your hips and lift the strap above your head and down toward the bed.
You can also do this exercise without the resistance band. According to Prevention, if you choose to forego the resistance band, you can instead clasp your fingers together and push your palms outward. “This releases tightness throughout the entire body, which tends to accumulate during sleep,” yoga teacher Randi Ragan told Prevention.
Lubricating your joints and stretching the muscles in your legs is important before hopping right out of bed.
That’s why Harvard Health recommends single knee pulls. They’re simple – lie on your back and pull one knee towards your chest. Flex your foot up and down, then switch.
SleepHappens.com also lists this as one of their top exercises to do each morning. They suggest a slight modification, where you can wrap your arms around your knees and pull gently, holding the position for at least 20 seconds.
How yoga can help
The practice of yoga involves many exercises that are intended to be held for a few moments to make sure the body gets a proper stretch. The Harvard Health article recommends poses such as cobra and child’s pose, but what other yoga stretches can be used in the early morning?
CaffeeYoga.com suggests incorporating other poses, such as downward dog to lengthen the back, or warrior one to help focus on balance. “Starting your day with yoga is a great way to wake yourself up (with or without coffee) and focus on yourself,” read the article.
The important areas to highlight
Stretching is an important way to start off your day. You want to focus on all areas of the body, being sure to take things slow and steady. The exercises in this article will help you safely warm up all of the key body parts – legs, neck, back, and joints.
Taking the time to give your body a chance to wake up before leaping out of bed can be extremely beneficial. It can save you suffering from cramps or pulling a muscle from sudden movement. And the best part of all? It only takes 5 minutes out of your morning.