I was thrilled to speak to Sunaina on one of my first Chai Time sessions – a friend and incredible yoga teacher based in Mumbai – about the easiest way for each one of us to incorporate movement techniques and stretches while lying in bed, cooking – doing anything! Last year she represented India at the UN on world yoga day. I’ve summarised her key stretches below but you can also watch this on youtube
You don’t need to be super flexible or into yoga to do these – they are for everyone! But that doesn’t mean they’re basic either!
Sunaina’s tips to incorporate stretches and movement while at home!
- Flex your feet! Many of us have gone from pretty active lives to rather stationary ones, and this can cause aches and pains in our lower backs, especially if we are sat still all day. Here is a great stretch to do while relaxing, reading or even watching Netflix! Lay on your back with your legs straight out in front of you. Start to flex your feet by drawing your toes up towards the celling and notice the connection between your feet and lower back as you start to engage the muscles in the front of your legs and strengthen your lower leg muscles. Relax your feet, and then repeat for another 20 repetitions. This is a super simple, easy stretch you can do anywhere and is great for releasing the lower back.
- Now let’s point your toes! After flexing your feet, it is great to now go the other way. Again, still laying down on your back, point your toes and repeat for another 20 repetitions. You should feel your ankles start to loosen up here and your calves begin to activate. This exercise can also be done whilst standing up, when waiting in lines, stood on the tube or even brushing your teeth. Simply stand tall and lift your heels up on to your tiptoes, again repeat for 20 repetitions.
- Activate your glutes. Having inactive glutes has always been a really common issue for those who spend the majority of time at their desks. However, as we spend time in isolation, it seems that a lot more of us are also spending time sat down, in which our glutes are inactive. This can lead to issues likepoor posture, lower back pain, hip tightness and so on. Activating your glutes is really simple and the more you become aware of it the more you will realise you don’t use your glutes when really you should. Just think- do you use your heels and glutes when walking up the stairs or do you run up on your tiptoes putting pressure on your knees? You can activate your glutes simply laying on your back or standing up. Squeeze your two glutes together, whilst also drawing in your thighs, this should be quite a small movement. You can also repeat these 20 times.
- How do you walk? The majority of people tilt forward as they walk. Here, the weight sits in the front of the body, rather than in the heels at the back. When walking around at home begin to pay attention to this and work on realigning this weight. An easy way to do this is by lifting up your toes- notice how the back of your legs become engaged support your posture.
- Release upper back desk tightness. Again, another commonality for those who curl over their desks for hours on end. Start by laying on your bed and begin to bring your upper body to the edge, so that your shoulders are almost hanging over the edge. Relax back so your chest starts to open, you may wish to interlace your finger behind your head here. Makes sure to keep your neck long to protect your spine. This stretch is great for opening your heart and helping to breath. You don’t need to be able to do a headstand; this is just as good. There are many benefits to this posture, from releasing stress, increasing focus, to bringing more blood to the head and scalp which maximises the flow of nutrients and oxygen to your scalp and help you grow luscious hair. This stretch also helps support digestion, decrease the build-up of fluid in your legs and feet, and stimulates the lymphatic system.
- Another great exercise for releasing tension in the upper back can be done up against a wall or a bed headboard. Start by lying on your tummy in front of your headboard, you can have your hips further away from the wall, but make sure you can reach up and place both palms on the wall just above your head. Make sure to keep looking at the wall and keep your spine straight as this will protect your neck. You can then move towards the wall and repeat for a more in depth stretch. This stretch will open up the chest and help you embrace everything coming your way
- Back bending. This is a really simple stretch you can do to open up your thighs and elongate the front of your body. Simply lie on the edge of the bed, placing the middle part of your buttocks on the edge of the bed and begin to push your hips forward. Make sure not to use your lower or upper buttocks here as this can place pressure on your lower back. This stretch will help release you hip and pelvic region, whilst also helping to release a lot of emotional trauma, stress and anxiety that often cultivates in this part of your body.
Stretches for the kitchen
1. Let’s work on posture! So often we are bending over the sink or chopping board offering no support to our lower back, so here’s a simple way to activate the backs of your legs and bring more awareness to your posture. Take either a sheet or towel, roll it and place it on the floor up against the counter. Place the front of your feet up on the towel, while your heels stay on the floor, you might feel a tightness in your calves and hamstrings here. Make sure the front of your ankles wrinkle, as this indicates that your ankles are opening. Simply stand like this for as long as you can whilst cooking or washing up, this is great for activating the backs of your legs and preventing you from leaning forward and putting pressure of your back.
2. Activate your triceps. Facing away from any bench, or counter, place both palms either side of your waist and begin to lower your body down towards the floor, making sure to keep your buttocks as close to the counter as you can. Count to 3 on the way down and 1 on the way up – repeat 12- 15 times.
3. Shoulder and chest opener. Facing any wall, bring your right arm out to the right-hand side of your body, at about chest height. From here, place your palm on the wall and keeping your feet still, begin to rotate both shoulders and hips to the left-hand side. You should feel this begin to open up your shoulders and chest. Hold this for 15- 20 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
4. Shoulder mobility and relaxation. Place your hands on your shoulders (right on right, left on left). Bring both elbows together in front of face, followed by both wrists behind head, then roll your elbows down and repeat for 12-15 repetitions.
How to help motivation?
If you do it once, you will feel the benefit, and this in itself is a great source of motivation to go and do it again. It’s also important to remember that we are not looking for a quick fix, instead take small steps, do a bit each day and eventually you will see the improvements.
If you want to do it, you will do it. It’s as simple as that. Wherever you are just keep moving!