Spending too much time in one position—whatever the reason may be—takes a physical toll, but it can chip away at your mental state, too. So we asked pilates instructor Nwando Emejulu to share small but impactful stretches that alleviate stress. They’re mostly intended to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods, but would also be a beneficial means of physical and mental relief for those who have been marching in protests. Nwando is taking it from here!
Stretch Your Traps
Hold one side of your head with the opposite hand, and then gently pull down—the sensation should feel like someone is pushing your shoulder away in an oppositional stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then do the next side.
Stretch Your Neck
Put both hands behind the back of your neck and apply as much pressure with your hands as you can, but keep it nice and gentle. Maintain this pressure for 30 seconds, and breathe deeply—the more you breathe, the more your muscles will relax.
Stretch Your Shoulders
Extend one arm across your chest and hook the other under it to hold and stretch, for 30 seconds or until you feel a release in your shoulder and upper back. Then do the same on the other side.
Stretch Your Chest
Stand up, clasp your hands behind you, and open your chest. Keep your knees really soft here, and pretend that someone is stretching your collarbone as wide as possible. Then lean forward, bringing your chest as close as possible to your thighs, with your arms lifted behind you, toward the ceiling. This is very intense for the shoulders, so be gentle, but it will give you amazing posture if you do it regularly.
Stretch Your Hip Flexors and Hamstrings
Hip flexors also get really tight from sitting a lot. Do a runner’s lunge with one knee down and the other foot forward. Keep your spine tall, and elongate your hips while simultaneously stretching your quads. Then straighten your front leg, bringing the chest forward to stretch your hamstring—which gets tight from sitting, too. Breathe in! Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Stretch Your Lower Back
“Happy Baby” pose is great for stretching the lower back. First, lay on the ground. Bending your knees toward your shoulders, place your hands on top of the arches of your feet. The more you’re able to press down your knees and butt, the better you’ll be able to relieve tension in your lower back and hips in a safe and protected way.