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Wellness

Self Care Sundays: Stretch Your Body and Your Mind

If any month were to be considered, “unsure,” it would be March. The month in between winter and spring where you can start the day off with a light jacket as the sun is bright and shining, but end the day bundled up in a parka as the sun sets and the bitter cold sets in. 

It is quite possible that we can mimic March and also be experiencing the in-between. Weather affecting mood is widely common and people do not take it as seriously as they should. Some may be excited to get back out there and explore the world as the warmer weather takes over, but some might be used to the warmth and isolation that winter provides. Similarly, you can be unsure and in the in-between state with your career or pursuing a passion. After one goal is achieved, or even no goals are achieved, you can be questioning what might come next. What am I really doing; what is my plan? These are all overarching questions that can lead one to feel generally unsure of where they are standing in the chaotic, messy and beautiful thing we call life. 

Today, we are going to try to stray away from the big questions and just focus on one daily thing you can implement to start to feel more stable. Humans are creatures of habit. Usually, when we form habits or routines they can immensely help us in our overall mental health due to adding structure to our lives, especially in the times mentioned above where we feel unsure or all over the place. 

Stretching. 

It's something that people may think they only need to do before or after a workout, so depending on that mindset you may only stretch twice a year (guilty). What people don't know is that even to just exist and walk around on a daily basis we should be stretching our bodies. But wait, there's more (gasps)! It’s not enough to just stretch. Let's learn to stretch with intention! By now you've probably heard about that work from home stiffness. It turns out when people sit all day, it isn't the best thing for their back or their posture (shocker I know). Relieving the tension in your back is gonna give you one less thing to worry about as you continue the daily grind to be your best self! 

The Quadratus Lumborum. Suddenly, we find ourselves back singing and dancing the bone dance from Hannah Montana (you know the one). This is the area of the back that can cause stiffness and lower back pain from a lack of stretching and it’s where we are going to be focusing our efforts. 

First, try sitting in a straddle position on the ground and leaning on one side to touch your toes on one leg with both arms, then repeat the same on the other side, stretching both legs and your lower back.

To open up the back of the thighs, try the standing forward bend, which can also stretch the hips. Stand up straight, then bend over to try to touch your toes, hang there for about 30 seconds to get the maximum stretch in your thighs, calves, hamstrings and hips as possible! 

It’s your old friend... the bridge pose. This time, however, we are not using it to torture you in a workout. Doing this pose on a regular basis actually has more health benefits than you'd think! For those that do not know the bridge pose, it is where you lie on your back, feet flat on the floor, then in one unison motion you lift your hips to the ceiling with your arms stretched out at your sides. 

While we’re on the ground let's also tackle a stretch for your sciatic nerve! The sciatic nerve is attached to your lower spine and goes down your body from there. Much like the Bridge Pose you'll lay flat on your back. Then, instead of lifting the lower half of your body, lift up one leg with your knee bent and cross the other leg on top of that leg that is hovering. Pull the original leg into your chest, stretching both that leg and the one that has now crossed it. 

Ukatata Konasana, also known as the Goddess Pose in yoga, is one where you will be standing with your feet three feet apart, with bent elbows and your palms facing each other. Make sure your feet are turned out at roughly a 45-degree angle facing the corners of the room. Then lightly press the hips forward and the knees back to open up your hips and your chest. 

Finish off with a nice classic pose, like Upward Dog. Lay on your stomach and then place your weight in your hands as your chest and shoulders arch, forward lifting most of your upper body and legs off of the floor. Always make sure your hands are aligned with your shoulders and that your shoulders are pulled down and away from your ears as you do this deep backstretch. 

These stretches are often quoted as freeing your body and your heart since they can open up so many places that often get locked up from sitting in one position or place the entire day. However, it isn't just freeing your body, it is freeing your mind. Adding simple stretches like this to your routine every day whether that be after you first wake up before starting your day, or right before you go to bed to end your day. We can add one note of structure in an otherwise chaotic world. Having one or two reliable things throughout the day can make all the difference when it comes to your mindset as you are going through each day. All of these stretches are completely accessible online for you to learn and do not hesitate to add any new stretches you may find along the way. Here's to stretching your body and mind each and every day! 

Kaitlyn Bancroft is a junior at Hofstra University in New York, following her passion to become a journalist. She enjoys eating chipotle and binge-watching as she procrastinates on assignments.
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