Lifestyle

Stretch Your Body, Stretch Your Mind

By Ashley Previte October 11, 2019

Let’s say your morning begins with a fresh outlook, unwrinkled papers, and that optimistic feeling of being ready to take on the world.

Then the day happens.

Stress compounds and soon enough your attitude, like most of those fresh papers, starts to crumple. You can feel the tension claiming the muscles of your body. Your neck, shoulders, and upper back tighten. You know you’re just one itsy irk away from a knock-you-down migraine.

What can you do? Stretch!

Stretching stimulates receptors in the nervous system that slow the production of stress hormones. It can increase flexibility, range of motion, and blood flow, and improve your posture. But did you know that stretching can also help your mind?

Fatigue, stress, and anxiety can cause the brain to slow down, make you think more slowly, react more harshly, and find it more difficult to make decisions. Stretching can help conquer these moments and give you the lift you need. 

Stretching benefits your body and your mind

  • Releases hormones for mood and emotions. Stretching affects your brain as well as your muscle system. Hormones are delivered throughout your body to help regulate metabolism and insulin as well as your attitude. A great stretch may be the way to a new outlook. 
  • Increases blood flow and circulation to your muscles and your brain. More blood flow contributes to a clearer mind and a more cheerful mood. After stretching, you will find yourself ready to rethink situations and decisions that may have been cloudy earlier. 
  • Encourages a relaxed awareness of your body and mind.  Allow your mind to drift away from the day. Stretching brings your mind to your body, the muscles you are moving, and the breath you inhale and exhale. Becoming aware of your movements, no matter how small, can help you refocus on you. 
  • Improves balance, flexibility, range of motion, and strength. Muscles that are inflexible tire easily which may then lead to injury. Keeping your body stretched can help you perform daily activities with more ease and less pain. 
  • Focuses your awareness to the present. So often we let the present slip away as we worry about the mistakes of the day or what needs to be done. Taking a few moments to refocus on yourself can pull your mind back to the here and now and prepare you for what’s happening in the moment. 

Some great stretches to do in your classroom

Finding well-being is easy — it’s available anytime, anywhere. Especially with something as simple as stretching. You don’t need anything but your own body and a little inspiration.

Here are some super simple, yet effective, stretches to do anytime, anywhere.

  • Forward fold: Stand tall with your feet apart. Soften your knees and slowly bend forward. Allow your upper body to hang loosely. Slowly sway side-to-side to release the tension in your lower back. Slowly roll your body upward. 
  • Foot stretch: Stand with your feet slightly apart. Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet. Then shift your weight to the balls of your feet, lifting your heels off the floor. Continue shifting your weight and stretching the various tendons and muscles in your feet for five breaths. 
  • Shoulder stretch: With your fingers interlaced and palms up, raise your arms above your head. Keeping your arms in line with your ears and looking straight ahead, relax your shoulder blades downward. Hold for five breaths. Slowly lower your arms. Roll your shoulders backward and forward. Repeat the stretch, holding for five breaths each time. 
  • Chest stretch: While standing, reach your hands behind you, clasping them together at the base of your back. As you pull your shoulder blades together, lift your clasped hands as high as you can behind you. Hold for five breaths.  
  • Tricep stretch: Either standing or sitting, bend your arm so that your hand reaches across your chest toward the opposite side. Use your other hand at the elbow to stretch your arm farther backward. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on the other side. 
  • Upper body and arm reach: Clasp your hands, palms facing outward, together above your head. Push your arms up, stretching upward. Hold for five breaths. 
  • Forward stretch: Clasp your hands in front of you while lowering your head. Press your head forward and hold for five breaths. 
  • Hip and knee stretch: Hug one knee at a time toward your chest. Hold for five breaths. Be sure to do this one leg at a time as back problems could occur.
  • Upper trapezoid stretch: Gently pull your head toward your shoulder until you feel a slight stretch. Hold the pose for five breaths. Repeat on the other side. 

Give your mind a mental break, breathe deeply, focus on the feel of the stretch, and release the pent up emotions sitting inside of your muscles. Taking a few moments to treat yourself with kindness and compassion can help to relieve daily stress and anxiety.

Interested in learning more about stress reduction? Check out 10 Easy Stress-Relief Yoga Poses to Prevent Teacher Burnout.

Ashley is an award-winning copywriter and content expert with more than a decade of proven results for national and local clients. From brainstorming high-end conceptual content to styling sentences that engage and convert, she’s got a knack for shattering the status quo. When she’s not in full-on writing mode, she’s hanging out with her rascal of a puppy and discussing the plausibility of unicorns with her 8-year-old daughter.

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