January 15th is officially the most depressing day of the year. However, for a lot of people the second week of January doesn’t feel too great either! For most people it’s their first full week back at work after their Christmas break, and getting back into the normal routine can often make them feel stressed out, tired and anxious.
And when you’re stressed, the blood flow in your body is restricted, causing your muscles to tense up, primarily in the neck, shoulders and lower back. This can leave you feeling uncomfortable and out of sorts.
But a few simple back and shoulder stretches can do wonders when it comes to reducing stress without having to resort to raiding the fridge for white wine and chocolate! Here are a few easy stretches that decrease the production of stress hormones and will get you feeling like the old you again.
This is a great stretch to focus the mind and body.
Sit on your heels (wide apart), tuck your legs underneath you. Relax your arms either in front or beside you on the mat. Press the head down towards the floor and don’t forget to breathe. Feel your ribs opening up against your thighs as you breathe into the back and the sides of your lungs and contracting as you breathe out. Allow your mind to slow down and your body to relax.
This exercise helps to lengthen the hamstrings and takes the strain off your lower back.
Lay on your back with your bum close to the wall, extend your legs up the wall with your heels touching it. Let your arms rest beside you or place them on your stomach. Relax your thighbones down into the pelvis. In this position you may notice your pelvis, hips and sacrum realigning and adjusting, too. Move your bum away from the wall if you experience discomfort.
This is a great stretch to combat upper and lower back pain as it articulates the spine.
Start in a four point kneeling position, with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Your spine is in neutral – stabilise your shoulder blades by drawing them down your back. Inhale to prepare. As you breathe out start to round your spine upward, tucking your head and your tailbone under, rounding your chin to your chest without forcing it. Now you’re in a cat stretch. Inhale to hold. As you exhale, simultaneously lift your head and sit bones upwards, press your chest forwards whilst keeping your abdominal muscles engaged. This is one of my favourite stretches and fab to do first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
Do you have any stress-busting stretches, exercises or tips to deal with the January blues? My Pilates classes can also help reduce stress levels, improve your core strength, your flexibility and posture as well as reducing joint pain. Go to www.bn1pilates.com for more information.