As new moms juggling a lot of things at once, we may be very familiar with stress and tension. Personally, the first three months for me were very challenging. Sleepless nights, sore body, trying to read the cues of your little one, learning to operate on someone else’s schedule, and maintaining your relationships were all stressful.
We tend to hold a tremendous amount of stress in our neck, shoulders, back and, believe it or not, hips. As you hold these stretches, not only are you helping to relieve physical tension, it is emotionally opening as well. I also performed these stretches during my pregnancy and it helped keep me open and flexible.
I love yoga but can’t always get there. Following are my favorite stretches that reduce stress, increase flexibility, and make you feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Try to hold each of these stretches for 3-5 full, slow breaths. Inhale through your nose for a 4 count, pause, and release out through your mouth for a 4 count. As you exhale, visualize your muscles releasing and go a little deeper into the stretch. Make sure perform each stretch on your right then your left before moving onto the next stretch.
1. Neck Release
Tension in the neck is not only annoying and at times painful, it can lead to headaches—one thing we don’t need as moms.
As you stand, roll your shoulders down and back into proper posture. Place your left hand on the right side of your head and apply gentle pressure. Take your right hand and drive down through your palm as if pushing to the floor to really deepen this stretch.
2. Chest Expansion
This stretch is key in not only opening the chest, but helping to promote good health, ease anxiety and depression, and open the heart chakra.
Roll your shoulders down and back into good posture. Gently take your hands and clasp them behind you. If you can’t do this, hold on to a towel. Drive your hands down to the floor and then lift your hands up towards the sky.
3. Shoulder Stretch
A tremendous amount of stress and tension is carried in our shoulders. You should feel almost an immediate benefit to opening your shoulders.
Extend your right arm out to your side, parallel to the floor. Then bring it across your body, just above your chest. Make sure your shoulder stays down. Now apply equal and opposite pressure with your left hand or wrist.
This stretch is great for your back, spine, neck and hips. It will help to improve your posture as well as calm your mind.
Start in a tabletop position with your hands underneath your shoulders and hips over knees. Bring your shoulders down and back. As you inhale, lift your sit bones upward, press your chest forward, and allow your belly to drop towards the floor. As you exhale, gradually arch your back, tuck your tailbone, and bring your pubic bone forward. Make sure to let your head drop towards the floor.
5. Prayer Stretch
This is a great stretch for your lats which are often neglected when it comes to stretching. It’s great for someone who sits a lot to do during their break.
Place a chair or something sturdy in front of you when you are in a tabletop position. Keeping the table top position, place your elbows on the chair, hands in a prayer position, and let your head fall down in between your arms. You’ll want to keep your core muscles activated and zipped up, preventing an arch in your back and adding stability to the stretch.
6. Runner’s Lunge
As athletes and fit moms, some of us get really tight in our quads, hamstrings, and hips. This will help us release the emotional stress and tension that many of us carry in our hips. It also helps to stretch your groin and build mental focus.
From prayer stretch, simply step your right foot forward as far as you can in front of you. Keeping your left knee on the floor, simply shift your hips down towards the floor and forward into the front foot. Make sure that your right knee doesn’t go past your foot. You should feel a comfortable stretch in your thigh and groin.
7. Pigeon Stretch
Stress and tension build up in the hips and create tightness. This is a pose that you will gradually work at to improve, but it feels great for your lower back, glutes, knees, and hips.
From the runner’s lunge, you will want to keep your hips square to the floor and gently slide your left leg and foot across your body. You will want to work to bring your left foot parallel with the side of the mat, but this can take time. Your left thigh should have an external rotation, and your left thigh should have a slight internal rotation. As you feel more comfortable in this stretch, you can lower your forearms onto the mat, or even rest your chest on the floor.