Maintaining flexibility is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Whether it’s to stretch out before a workout, loosen up after a day of sitting in the office, or recover after an injury, mobility exercises are a must for overall muscle health. I thought I’d share my favorite everyday mobility exercises that anyone can do, from pro athletes to couch potatoes.
Tree Pose/Staircase Hip Openers
This one is my favorite, I find myself in tree pose whenever I am standing in one place for any amount of time. Brushing my teeth, making dinner, playing video games, and so on. This pose targets balance, hip flexibility, and leg strength. To get into tree pose, it’s important to engage your quadricep first. You can do this by lifting your leg to create a staircase (first picture). Next, externally rotate your leg to position your hip (second picture) and then place your foot on your standing leg (third picture). Remember that your foot can be on on your ankle, shin, or thigh depending on balance and flexibility but make sure you avoid placing your foot directly on your knee.
Your spine can move in six different ways: up and down, left to right, and twist side to side. If nothing else, try to move your spine all six ways every day to minimize the chance of injuries. Cat and cow pose target the up and down movement of the spine and are great movements to warm the body up before exercise and alleviate stiffness from sitting all day.
Side Bend Stretch
This stretch targets the left to right movements of the spine and it feels so good after a long day of work. This particular side bend is also a good way to stretch the inner thighs. Reach your opposite arm overhead for more sensation and try looking up to challenge your balance!
Down dog is one of my favorite yoga poses because of all the muscle groups it can target. Pressing your chest towards your thighs opens up the shoulders while nodding your head yes and no can loosen up the neck muscles. Pressing your heels down provides an amazing stretch through your calves and hamstrings.Open your hips by lifting one leg to three-legged dog, stacking your hips, and bending your knee. Add some core movement by doing three-legged dog, touching your knee to your elbow, then shifting forward to plank pose. Repeat 5 times on each side, moving slowly.
Supine Twist/Windmill Arms
Supine twists are some of the more relaxing stretches I’ve encountered. This particular supine pose targets the last two spinal movements: twisting side to side. Supine poses are great to do in bed right before you go to sleep. Add some rainbow arms to loosen up the shoulders and open your chest.
Let these 5 exercises be a starting point, and add more movement as you become stronger and more flexible. Dedicating just a few minutes of your day to moving and stretching your body is so important and has so many benefits. Several academic papers, including Dworkis, support the idea that regular yoga practice can reduce the risk of injury, as well as alleviate pain and tension, improve posture, increase energy levels, and provide an overall sense of well-being.