Hey you! Yes, you; the leaner-inner, eye squinter and shoulder huncher. Straighten up your back, adopt a safe reading distance, release the tension in your neck, drop those shoulders, and read on; this one’s for you.
We’re probably all well aware of it by now; our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is one of Britain’s silent killers. Days spent chained to the desk, stopped over a computer do no favours for our eyes, our waistline, our shoulders, backs and soul. Obesity is on a seemingly unstoppable rise and poor posture has the potential to damage our enjoyment of life later down the line. What’s more, work-related pressures are causing some serious mental strain. In 2018 saw the UK rank 5th worst in the world for unmanageable stress, behind only the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Korea. So how about something which helps alleviate all of this? Read on; our 5 IDEAL stretching exercises to help you relax after a day in the office.
A SKY STRETCH
Who doesn’t find at least a little tension released when stretching upwards. You know the pose, the overexaggerated, cartoon yawn done when you first sit up in bed. Well, it turns out that it can actually help to relax you and decrease stress. To get technical, stress is thought to restrict blood flow, and stretching stimulates receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones. The sky stretch is simply the connoisseur’s term for that reaching skywards, with fingers interlocked and palms facing upwards that we all do without much thought.
A SEATED SHOULDER SQUEEZE
Another stretch that will come naturally to most is the seated shoulder squeeze. Again, the fingers are interlocked but this time, your energy is focused on pushing down and behind your back, arms at a 45-degree angle to the floor and palms facing downwards. Tension is then relieved in your shoulders and lower neck – a crucial area of stress buildup – much like when receiving a massage concentrated in that area.
Nope, not the semi-dangerous internet craze of the beginning of the decade, but a great workout, all done in a stationary position and requiring no equipment or huge time investment. An absolute no brainer, then.
There are plenty of ways to perform this excellent core workout, but the most simple is the forearm variety. With legs extended and elbows bent directly under shoulders, you should rest your forearms on the floor, shoulder width apart and feet hip-width apart. With everything except forearms and toes lifted off the ground, your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Hold for 60 seconds or as long as you can. Post plank, you’ll feel relaxed and in time, notice stronger, more defined abs.
LEGS UP THE WALL POSE
Nope, not a regression in to childhood sulking, but a great, easy to perform pose, perfect for relaxation. A classic yoga position, you simply lie with you back on the ground, butt touching the wall and legs at a right angle running up the wall. It’s suggested by aficionados to hold this pose for a good ten to fifteen minutes, and we’re not complaining. During this time, you can reflect on and unwind from a tough day at the office.
Stress can cause lower back pain, and lower back pain can cause stress; a vicious circle indeed. The Spinx yoga pose can help relieve and reduce stress and alleviate anxiety through increasing blood flow to and from the area. The kidney and nervous system are invigorated, and everything looks just that little bit rosier.