Many people now are finding their days both hectic and hazy: The disconnection from our old routines just makes us feel off. That’s where a daily stretching routine comes in handy—both for people working or caring for family at home and essential workers looking for a way to reset and soothe their bodies when their shifts are done.
As a freelance writer, I’m no stranger to the work-from-home lifestyle, and in the nine months I’ve been living it, I realized moving my body on the regular plays a big part in helping my body and brain work optimally. It makes a huge difference in how I feel throughout the day.
Even just doing a quick stretch or two midday, or moving gently in some other way—sometimes I like to pick a quick five-minute bodyweight workout—has a huge impact on my day. And I don’t necessarily mean in terms of productivity, though that’s sometimes a nice side effect.
Getting up and moving regularly throughout the workday simply makes me feel more like a human. It reminds me that I don’t need to be tied to my computer from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to be successful; just because I’m at home and don’t plan on going out doesn’t mean my brain and body don’t still need (and deserve!) a break every now and then.
Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., registered yoga teacher, certified functional strength coach, and creator of Le Sweat TV, tells SELF that incorporating movement into an otherwise-sedentary day can provide a much-needed boost of energy. “Increased movement causes increased blood flow, and increased blood flow increases energy, which can help reset your mind and increase focus.”
In addition to the mental benefits, a quick midday stretching routine also makes for a feel-good physical reset—especially for our necks, shoulders, back, and hips, which typically end up feeling not-so-great after sitting all day long.
When we’re sitting for hours at a time, the hip flexors (the muscles on the front of your hips that engage when you lift your leg toward your chest) shorten and feel tight, Atkins explains. Over time, you may feel the effect in other areas that your glutes typically support, like your lower back and knees.
Sitting all day takes a toll on the upper body too. “The shoulders internally rotate when we have our arms in front of us at a computer,” says Atkins. “The head comes forward, because of this shoulder positioning,” she adds. Overall, this upper-body misalignment can result in a rounding of the spine and discomfort in your neck, shoulders, and lower back.
But this daily stretching routine isn’t just for people who are sitting all day: The benefits of taking the time to mindfully move your body, focus on your breathing, and gently move your muscles can be a welcome recharge for anyone whose body is simply feeling tired or spent.
Atkins suggests doing a quick two-to-three-minute reset every hour to recharge mentally and physically—just get out of your chair and move your body in some way.
And once per day, get up and try a longer daily stretching routine, like the one below. Shoot to hold each move for 60 seconds, she says. (You can add more time as you get more familiar with the moves, and if you’re just starting out, you can shoot for 30 seconds first.)
It’ll help your body and mind feel better—and that’s something we all really deserve right now.
Demoing the moves are Devon Stewart (Photo 1), a yoga instructor and sexual and reproductive health doula based in Harlem; Caitlyn Seitz (Photos 2 and 3), a New York–based group fitness instructor and singer/songwriter; Atkins (Photos 4, 5, and 7); and Callie Gullickson (Photo 6), a certified personal trainer and coach at Tone House in New York City.