You probably already stretch before and after tennis or workout, but stretching is something you need to do every day, whether you play or work out… or not. That’s because it keeps your muscles from shortening (ie. tight hamstrings from sitting at a desk – or on the couch – all day), and helps with flexibility, mobility, and range of motion. Aside from making you strong and limber, stretching regularly will protect you from injury, too.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take a ton of time. These five stretching exercises from Tessa Jenkins, training director for Bulldog Online and Bulldog Yoga, can be done in just five minutes at any point during the day. Whether you prefer to wake up and stretch, or shake off brain fog with some midday poses, the benefits of this simple routine will help both your body and mind.
Downward Facing Dog
- Start on your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width apart, your wrists underneath your shoulders, and your knees underneath your hips.
- Tuck your toes under your heels and lift your hips into an upside down V-shape. Think about pressing the mat away from you as you shift your weight into your legs.
- Press your heels down toward the mat but not necessarily touching the mat if you don’t have the flexibility. A slight bend in the knees will help with tight hamstrings and hips.
- Keep your gaze between your ankles toward the back of the mat. Hold for five inhales and exhales.
Cat and Cow
- Start in a tabletop position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
- Inhale as you lift your head and tailbone, belly melting toward the floor, as shown. This is cow pose.
- Exhale as you round your back and draw your abs in toward your spine, tucking your chin to your chest to find a stretch between your shoulders. This is cat pose.
- Alternate between cat and cow for three rounds of each pose, one breath per movement.
Seated Forward Fold
- Sit tall with your legs stretched forward.
- On the inhale, reach high to the sky, and then as you exhale, reach forward with a long spine, allowing the upper back to round once you can’t reach any further. If this is very challenging on your back or legs, give yourself a gentle bend in the back of your knees. You can also use a towel or yoga strap under your feet to get a fuller stretch.
- Get to your best version of this pose and stay for five rounds of breath.
- Begin lying flat on your back, knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Your knees should be hips-distance apart; keep your arms at your sides.
- Press down through your feet and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Tuck your shoulders toward one another and interlace your hands together if possible.
- As you inhale, expand the breath in your chest, and as you exhale, press down through your heels and lift your hips. Stay for five rounds of breath.
Lord of the Fishes
- Sit tall with your legs forward. Keep the right leg grounded on the mat and place your left foot on the outside of your right thigh.
- Place your right hand behind your hip (or on a yoga block). As you inhale, sit tall and reach your fingers toward the ceiling.
- As you exhale, twist your torso to the left and hook your elbow on the outside of your left thigh, as shown. Gaze over your left shoulder.
- Stay for five breaths. As you inhale, lengthen through your spine, and as you exhale, twist a little deeper.
- Repeat on the other side.