Get Set Go with Morning Stretches
Dr. Kirti Singh

Dr. Kirti Singh

Apr 20General wellness

Get Set Go with Morning Stretches

This blog is compiled by Athira Krishnan, a content writer for Proactive For Her. 

What is the science behind it?

Our bodies have a natural tendency to stretch when we are tired or as we yawn. It is a natural mechanism that is done in an effort to pump in more oxygen and remove stiffness and soreness from our muscles.

While we’re sleeping, our body relaxes and as our muscles lose tone, the fluid outside our cells gets accumulated along our backs. When we wake up, we tend to stretch our body causing the muscles to get toned, massaging the fluid back to its original place. This process pumps more oxygen through our body as the blood circulation in our muscles increases. This results in you feeling refreshed and revitalized.

If we do not stretch our muscles, our body tends to lose its flexibility gradually. Normally when a muscle stretches, certain nerve receptors send signals to the muscle to stop extending, in order to prevent overstretching the muscle. If we do not warm up before an exercise or a workout, this mechanism becomes affected, leading to body stiffness, aches and increased muscle spasms.

What are the different types of stretches and what are their roles?

  • Dynamic stretches - Dynamic stretches are active movements in which the joints and muscles undergo a full range of motion. These stretches are done to help warm up the body before exercise. They are meant to get the body moving and typically aren’t held for any length of time.

    The movements are often similar to the type of activity you’ll be doing during your workout. For example, a swimmer may circle their arms before getting into the water whereas a runner may jog in place before starting their run. Some examples include trunk twists, walking lunges or leg swings against a wall.

  • Static stretches - Static stretching, on the other hand, consists of stretches that you hold in place for a length of time without movement. This helps your muscles to loosen up while at the same time increasing flexibility and your range of motion. These stretches can be done any time of the day; such as after a night’s sleep, post-workout session or even after long hours of sitting or standing. Some examples include triceps stretch and butterfly stretch.

What are some benefits of stretching?

  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Reduces body aches, stiffness and soreness
  • Increases blood circulation
  • An elevation in performance, both mental and physical
  • Reduces fatigue and keeps you energised throughout the day
  • Helps in post-workout recovery
  • Improves focus and sense of alertness

It is commonly assumed that stretches should be performed only pre or post-workout. In reality, there are numerous benefits to stretching first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Stretching first thing in the morning can alleviate any tension, soreness or pain from sleeping in an uncomfortable position the night before. It also increases your blood flow and energises the body for the day ahead.

What are some morning stretches you can do?

For optimal results, try and spend a total of 60 seconds on each stretching exercise. For example, if you can hold a certain stretch for 15 seconds, then repeating it three more times is ideal. If you are able to hold a stretch for 20 seconds, two more repetitions will do the trick.

  • Overhead tricep stretch - Extend your right arm towards the ceiling, then bend at the elbow to bring your right arm towards the centre of your back, making sure your middle finger rests along your spine. Use your left hand to gently push your elbow downwards and towards the centre.

  • Backwards biceps stretch - Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart with your hands clasped firmly behind your back. Slowly extend your arms backwards by raising them as high as you can till you feel the stretch in your biceps. Relax and repeat as required.

  • Head-to-knee forward bend - Sit on the floor with your feet together and your legs fully extended. Bend your right knee by bringing the sole of your right foot close to the left thigh. Stretch your arms forward and as you bend at the hips, slowly lower your torso and hold your left foot. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
  • Sideways spinal twists - This stretch can be performed both while sitting and lying down.
  1. For the seated position - Sit with your legs fully extended keeping your feet together and your spine erect. Bend the left leg and place the heel besides your right hip (optionally, you can keep the left leg straight). Place your right leg over your left knee. Then place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand behind you. Slowly twist your waist, shoulders and neck towards your right and look over your right shoulder. Hold in this position while breathing steadily. While releasing this position, first release your right hand, then your waist, chest and lastly your neck. Repeat for the other side.
  2. For the lying down position - Lie comfortably on your back and slowly bend your knees and bring them to your chest while keeping your arms extended perpendicular to your body, palms facing up towards the ceiling. Next, carefully drop both of your knees over to the right and look towards your left. Make sure you keep both your knees and feet close together and press the backs of your shoulder blades down. Hold in this position for a length of time and bring your knees back to the center. Repeat with the other side.
  • Neck bends - A set of three different stretches can be done for the neck
  1. Neck extension (backward bending) - Gently extend the neck and head back by looking upwards while keeping your shoulders and back stationary. Hold for a few seconds before returning to the neutral position.
  2. Neck flexion (forward bending) - Gradually lower your chin towards your chin and look downwards while only moving the head. Hold for a few seconds before returning to the neutral position.
  3. Lateral neck flexion (bending side to side) - Slowly bend your head sideways by bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder. During this stretch, the shoulders and back remain stationary while the neck flexes laterally to the side. Hold for a few seconds before returning to the neutral position and repeat with the other side

  • Leg stretches for calves and hamstrings - This exercise can be done both while lying down and in the standing position.
  1. For the lying down position - While lying on your back, raise your right leg as high as you can while keeping your hips flat on the bed. Hold your right lower thigh and try to move it forward towards your head. Flex your left foot to stretch your calf. Hold in this position, then switch sides.
  2. Ankle stretches - You can do these exercises either while sitting or lying down
  3. Ankle circles - Place your right leg over your left knee and slowly turn your ankle in circles clockwise and anti-clockwise. Repeat the same with the other leg
  4. Toe extension - In the same position as above, now place your right hand on your right knee and using your left hand, slowly pull your toes towards your right and similarly push it towards your left until you feel a stretch in your ankle.
  • Interlocked fingers and palm stretch - Interlock your fingers and turn your palms to face outwards and straighten your arms. Hold and then release. Stretch out one arm with your fingers pointing towards the floor. Place the other hand on top to increase the stretch.
  • Knee to chest stretch - Lie on your back with both your knees bent. Hold one knee with your hands and slowly pull towards your chest. Then lower your bent leg and hold in this position before switching sides
  • Side bends - While seated in the cross-leg position, place your right hand on the floor/bed, beside your hip. Slowly raise your left arm and stretch over your head towards your right side. Make sure you don’t bend forwards or backwards. Hold for a few seconds and relax, and repeat the same with the other side.

Based on your preference, the following yoga asanas can be performed instead, in your morning routine.

  • Tadasana or mountain pose
  • Paschimottanasana or seated forward bend
  • Butterfly pose with the head dropped towards the ground
  • Bhujangasana or cobra pose
  • Sukshma yoga asanas for your face
  • Balasan or child’s pose
  • Adho mukha svanasana or Downward facing dog
  • Uttanasana or standing forward bending
  • Malsana or squats
  • Pawanmuktasana or knee to chest pose

What should I keep in mind when I’m performing these stretches?

  • Try and include stretches both before and after a workout session. This will remove body aches, stiffness and soreness and increase flexibility and strength.
  • It is advised to perform these stretches slowly and to avoid sudden jerk-like movements
  • When doing morning stretches, it is best to do them as soon as you get out of bed or when you’re still in bed
  • Take care to not overexert your body. Stretch comfortably, only as far as your body allows you to.
  • It is recommended to avoid eating or drinking juices and other beverages before a stretching routine.

Bottom Line

Inculcating these simple stretches into your morning routine is sure to bring about a noticeable change to your day. You will most likely feel more energised, no longer suffer from body aches and soreness and in the long run will most likely prevent loss of muscle tone that occurs sometimes in old age. They also help you feel better mentally, leaving you feeling uplifted and motivated.

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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