BY: Stephanie Ruopp
For all the joy the holidays bring, it can be a stressful time too.
The extra eating, drinking, and entertaining – along with changes in your routine – can throw you off your square.
One of the first things that’s sacrificed during the holidays for many people is their exercise routine.
There’s no need to go cold turkey while loading up on turkey though.
We’ve created this short stretching routine that you can do every morning – no matter how demanding the holidays are.
Short Stretching Routine to Start Your Day
The following short series of stretches is created to be done first thing in the morning.
Stretching is a great way to relieve joint pain and stiffness, increase circulation, and improve your energy and your mood – all essentials during the holiday.
Plus, this series actually begins in bed, so you can ease into it slowly.
1. Full-Body Stretch .
When you first wake up in the morning, you can take advantage of this natural movement.
- Take a deep inhale and reach your arms overhead.
- Clasp your fingers together, flip your palms over toward the wall behind your head, and push your palms away from you.
- As you stretch your arms overhead, also stretch your legs long; pointing your toes toward the end of the bed.
- Hold this position for a full count of five.
- Slowly exhale and release the stretch.
- Repeat two more times to give yourself a total of three stretches.
This stretch will release any tightness that’s accumulated throughout the body during sleep.
2. Knees-to-Chest Stretch
While still in bed, bend your knees and place your feet in front of your hips.
- Take an inhale and, one at a time, slowly draw each knee in toward your chest.
- Wrap both arms around both shins and give yourself a hug.
- Exhale slowly.
- Keeping your head relaxed on your pillow, maintain this hugging position for a count of ten slow inhales and exhales. Then release.
This stretch will gently wake up your lumbar spine while stimulating the mind and preparing you to start your day.
3. Supine Spinal Twist
There’s nothing better at resetting your nervous system than a spinal twist.
- Bend your knees and once again, draw the legs into the chest.
- This time, you’ll gently release both legs over toward the right. If the legs don’t come all the way down onto the mattress, you can place blankets underneath them for support.
- Take a few deep breaths – feeling any tension in the front of your abdominal region melt away as you exhale. If it feels alright to turn your head to the left, do so.
- After those few deep breaths, bring the knees back to center and do the same over to the left – turning the head to the right if the neck allows.
- Bring the knees back to center and place the feet back onto the bed.
Taking these twists in a relaxed manner with your shoulders open and wide will bring equanimity back to your spine.
4. Bed-to-Floor Stretch
You’re not getting up quite yet. But you’re heading that way.
- Keeping your knees bent, swing your feet over the side of the bed so they touch the floor and sit up.
- Slowly begin to hang your head and arms down toward the floor.
- Round your spine over your knees.
- Relax and surrender into this forward fold for five long breaths – paying extra attention to the exhales.
- Slowly come back up.
This stretch is effective in waking up the brain as it gets a fresh supply of oxygen.
5. Child’s Pose
Time to rise up and head to a mat or stable rug on the floor for this restorative pose.
- Starting on hands and knees on the mat, bring your big toes together and knees a little wider apart.
- On an exhale, tuck your chin to your chest and begin to ease your hips back toward your heels. If this is troublesome on the knees, widen your toes.
- If the hips don’t reach the heels, you can bring a pillow between them.
- Rest into this stretch for five deep breaths; forehead to the ground or a blanket and arms stretched either in front or along the sides of your body.
- Use an inhale to slowly rise back up and out of the pose, back onto hands and knees.
Child’s pose is a great stretch for your hips, pelvis, thighs, and spine which can be tight in the morning. It also relieves stress and fatigue while simultaneously calming the brain. An invaluable skill during the holidays!
6. Cat and Cow Pose
While on hands and knees, “set” your table. Bring shoulders directly over the wrists and hips directly over the knees.
- As you inhale, tilt your pelvis upward and allow the belly to drop toward the earth so your back arches. Draw the shoulders back and look slightly up.
- Exhale and tilt the pelvis back down, letting your back round and the head hang.
- Continue this movement for five long and deliberate breaths – arching on the inhales and rounding on your exhales.
This moving stretch serves to increase the circulation of your spinal fluid and lubricate the spine. You’ll also give the organs of your abdomen a gentle massage.
7. Downward-Facing Dog .
This pose is considered a mild inversion and it energizes the body while calming the brain.
- From your table pose, curl your toes and then slowly lift the hips up and back toward where the wall meets the ceiling behind you.
- Continue to press your hands into the mat while working your heels toward the floor. They don’t have to touch.
- Adjust your stance so you feel comfortable, but challenged.
- Take a few breaths, continuing to roll shoulders down and off the back.
- Alternate bending and straightening legs, opening up the back of the legs and stretching the hamstrings.
- Remain for a solid five breaths.
- Slowly walk your feet forward into a standing forward fold.
- Roll up to standing, one vertebra at a time.
You can always stay in downward dog for as long as it feels beneficial. It’s so therapeutic for the spine.
8. Pilates Standing Side Bend
Now that you’ve come up to standing from downward dog, there’s just one more stretch.
- Stand tall in Pilates stance – squeezing your gluteals and pressing the heels together with the toes are apart.
- Lightly rotate the backs of the legs.
- Draw the abdominals in and up while lengthening your lower back so that you’re stretched up straight and tall.
- Inhale and extend your right arm up alongside your head, keeping the shoulder down. Let the left arm hang down at your side.
- As you exhale, begin to side stretch to the right – arcing up and over and keeping your low back as long as possible to avoid compression in the right side.
- At the peak of your stretch, take another breath cycle, inhaling and exhaling to deepen the stretch. Continue to lengthen.
- Use an inhale to rise back up. Repeat to the left side.
- Complete two to three more cycles on each side.
Doing side bends helps you to build flexibility and teaches you how to engage your abdominal muscles when performing daily tasks. Plus, by standing tall in this exercise, you’re encouraging good posture.
Embrace the Holidays
Once you experience the benefits of starting the day with this short stretching routine, you’ll be less tempted to hit the snooze.
Plus, you’ll be able to head into the holidays with more confidence and ease.