I have a bad habit of denying negative emotions until they overwhelm me. And since my brain refuses to recognize them, they show up in other ways… especially in my warmups. It’s kind of silly but sometimes I won’t realize how stressed I’ve been until I go to warm up for my workout. 99.9% of the time, I will have really tight hips, a tight jaw (I have TMJD, which doesn’t help either), and extremely tight hip flexors. I usually end up taking a good 5 minutes longer than usual to warm up. Something I’ve come to realize is that just as negative emotions can be stored in our muscles, they can also be released by stretching out those same muscles. Have you ever taken a yoga class, and during a certain pose suddenly felt the urge to cry? That’s because we store a lot of emotions in our joints, and by releasing the muscles around those joints, we often release emotions we didn’t even know we had pent up.
So today I’m going to give you 5 stretches that really help me release stress and tension. I hope they do the same for you 🙂
- Pigeon – Kneel on a mat or carpeted floor. Stretch your left leg out behind you, while you tuck your right leg’s foot underneath you. Try not to rotate your hips. Repeat on the other side. Stay facing forward. This stretch opens up the hip rotators and hip flexors (2 big problem areas for me). Try to relax into this pose. I know it can be really hard, but focus on completely relaxing your hip flexors to allow yourself to get as close to the ground as possible. To really target the but and hip rotator muscles, lay across your front knee (pictured below).
- Butterfly – Sit and open your knees to the side, keeping the bottoms of your feet together. You can keep your feet out away from you to target the outer thighs and hip rotators, or you can pull them in close to target the inner thighs and hip flexors. Play around in this stretch by leaning to one side, leaning forward, or trying to stretch upwards as tall as you can.
- Double Pigeon – Sit on the floor and cross your left ankle over your right knee, with your right ankle tucked under your left thigh. Repeat on the other side. For some reason this one is always the hardest (and the most effective) for me. It’s a really deep stretch, reaching all those hard-to-target spots in your hip. Lean forward to make it even harder.
- Front shoulder stretch – We tend to store a lot of negative emotions in our shoulders as well as our hips. This stretch targets the front of the shoulders and chest. Sit on the floor with your legs out straight in front of you. Place your palms on the floor behind you and walk your hands as far back as you can without too much discomfort. Try to keep your back flat. You should feel a very deep stretch in the front of your shoulder/chest area. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get as far as the woman in the picture below. Work on your shoulder flexibility for a few minutes every day and you’ll get there eventually.
- Downward-facing Dog – Make an upside down “V” shape with your body by placing your hands in front of your feet on the floor. Make one side of the “V” by straightening your legs, and the other side by making a straight line through your arms, shoulders, and back. This will give you a nice, relaxing stretch in your shoulders, back, legs, and hips.
Where do you tend to store stress in your body? Are there any stretches you’ve found that are helpful? Let me know in the comments!