Postural exercises are important, but stretching can be even more so. Many conditions and associated pain may be related simply to poor posture and tight or hypertrophied muscles. Stretching can help calm the mind, the muscle, and help to break up any scar tissue or trigger points that have accumulated over the years.
1. Pectoralis muscle stretches- Using a door frame or any stable vertical structure to stretch out the muscles in your chest can begin to reverse the effects of working at a desk. This is especially important if you love the “bench press” but neglect the opposing muscle groups.
2. Piriformis stretches- The piriformis is a muscle in your gluteal region that often becomes tight and, due to its close proximity to the sciatic nerve, can be the cause of sharp pain down the leg. Simply bringing the affected leg across the body and working your knee to the chest can stretch the piriformis. To get a deeper stretch, try variations of the pigeon pose (raja kapotasana).
3. Low back stretches- These are especially important after sitting for long periods of time, such as at a desk, in a car, or on the couch. They can also feel great in the morning just to get everything moving. Some of these stretches include: cat-cow or cat-camel, knee to chest/fetal position, child’s pose, pelvic tilt, and the seated side-bending stretch.
4. Leg stretches- the key to stretching any extremity is to remember that there are many different directions they can move. For example, when stretching your quads, instead of just pulling your foot to your glutes, you can rotate your leg in and out to stretch your vastus medialis and lateralis as well.
Your body can move different directions, so the best way to increase your range of motion is to try moving your body in ways that it is not used to. If you experience severe pain, of course, you should see your doctor right away.