Stretch Out the Morning
Reclined Heart Opener
art by Sally Mae Meyer
Spending more than a third of our lives in bed means we should make the best of each night, right? However, if you fall asleep in the wrong position, back and neck pain as well as numbness in your limbs can be your wake up call, which is not cool. “Sleep is when your body recovers,” says chiropractor Lisa Kirsch of Tribeca Chiropractic in New York City. “If your sleeping position forces your spine out of alignment or compresses your muscles, nerves, or organs, your body can’t heal itself effectively.”
While the best position to sleep in (for your body to be able to rest and heal properly) is on your back with no pillow, most of us would agree how uncomfortable that would be. There is nothing better than cuddling up to your pillow and saying nighty-night.
So after snuggling up, a good morning stretch can help reset your spine and limbs and start your day off with less pain.
“Animals stretch as soon as they wake up,” says Fitz Gordon. “Kids do, too. Sadly, adults don’t.” So take 10 minutes out of your morning to roll out bed properly.
How You Sleep: Side with Arm Under Head
Try this: Stretch your shoulders which tend to get compressed by the weight of your body and head.
Try this: Sit up straight and tall, contracting your stomach muscles. Reach your arms out to the sides wide, and then pull one arm across your body using your other arm to pull it close to you. Breathe in and out five times and switch arms. Do this three times each side.
Try this: The Cow Face Pose stretches the neck and back muscles while opening the chest. Stand up with abs contracted with a strap in hand. Put right hand up in the air and then bend your elbow and bring your hand as far down your back as you can. Reach the left arm straight out to your side, and then turn your palm to face behind you. Bend your left elbow and bring your left arm behind your back; grab the strap with your left hand. Relax for five breaths. Repeat on other side.
Cow Face Pose
How You Sleep: On Your Stomach
Try this: Side Stretch which opens the torso, helping to expand the lungs. Also helps put your lower back curve into the proper place.
Stand tall with abs engaged and hands clasped behind your head. Keeping your spine lengthened, bend to the right; go as far as you comfortably can. Stay here for five breaths, breathing naturally, and then return to the starting position. Repeat to the left. Stretch each side three times.
Try this: The Easy Bridge Pose also restores the lower back curve which helps realign your neck. It also opens chest and diaphragm, helping you to breathe more easily and deeply.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat, about 12 inches from your hips. To a count of three, reach your arms overhead and lift your hips off the floor; your head, arms, shoulders, and feet remain grounded. Keep your glutes soft and core tight as you hold the stretch for a count of three. Now lower your arms and roll your spine, one vertebra at a time, back down to the mat. Repeat five times.
How You Sleep: On Back with a Big Pillow
Try this: A Neck Release balances the muscles in your neck.
Sit tall on the edge of a chair. Drop your right ear toward your right shoulder until you feel a strong yet bearable stretch. Hold for five breaths. Return to center, then drop your left ear toward your left shoulder and hold for five breaths. Return to center. Turn your head as far as you comfortably can to the right; stay for five breaths. Come to center. Repeat to the left.
Try this: The Reclined Heart Opener pose opens the chest and moves the head and neck back stretching the anterior longitudinal ligament, which can shorten when you spend too much time with your head in a forward position.
Lie flat on a mat on the floor with a rolled up blanket or towel placed horizontally under your shoulder blades. Rest your arms out to the sides in a T, palms facing up. Relax and breathe deeply for at least two minutes, gradually working up to as long as 15 minutes.