There’s nothing more depressing than watching our nanny Alex do yoga.
Never mind that the last time I did a back handspring was in HIGH school, just bending over to pick up my sneakers is giving me a little twinge in the lower back. The US Department of Health estimates we lose 10-15% of our natural limberness and flexibility with each 10 years we age–meaning that in another couple of years, I’ll be excited if I can raise my hand high enough to brush my teeth.
With this is mind, I think it’s time to add in some limbering exercises. Here’s 5 quick exercises to restore flexibility–you’ll also improve circulation, joint pain and your complexion. Not bad, eh?
Seated Trapezius Stretch
1. Turn your chin to the right and toward your chest.
2. Place your right hand over the top of your head, and gently pull your head down toward the right (photo). You will feel a stretch in your left trapezius, and if you touch the left side of your neck with your left hand, you will feel the tight muscle being stretched. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and then relax. Repeat this stretch four times, remembering to breathe.
3. Switch chin direction to the left. Place your left hand over the top of your head, and gently pull down to stretch your right side.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
2. Raise your right arm up to shoulder height, and move it across the front of your body.
3. With your left arm, pull the right arm as close to your chest as possible, and hold it for 30 seconds (photo). You should feel the stretch across the back of your shoulder. Repeat this four times, then switch to the left side.
1. With your feet shoulder width apart, raise your right arm straight up and over your head.
2. Bend your elbow so that your right hand is reaching for your left shoulder.
3. Use your left hand to press back on your right elbow (photo). You will feel a great stretch in the back of your arm and upper shoulder.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat four times on each side.
1. Lie down with the small of your back against the floor.
2. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees to stabilize your hips.
3. Slowly raise your right leg off the ground with the knee as straight as possible. Your right hip should not rise off the floor, and the motion should come only from your hip (photo).
4. As your foot approaches vertical, you will feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
5. Hold your leg in this raised position for 30 seconds.
6. After 30 seconds, relax your knee, and then repeat three times before switching to the left leg.
1. Begin on your knees.
2. Place your hands in front of you on an exercise ball or the seat of a chair.
3. While keeping your back flat, reach forward with your arms, and lower your buttocks to your feet (photo A). You will feel a stretch along the sides of your back.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, while breathing, then relax. Repeat four times.
5. Next, place your hands shoulder width apart on the ground. It will look as if you are crawling.
6. Gently arch your back toward the ceiling, and tuck your buttocks in (photo B). Hold, and repeat four times. After the last arch, lower your buttocks to your heels with your arms stretched out in front, and let your back relax.
Ready for more? Find more excellent exercises in this series at “US News: Health”