Let the de-stress stretch help you out

THere’s a reason you might call someone a “stress ball” or “stress ball.” Feelings of stress can make us feel like we are tied in knots, mentally and physically tense. Think about what your shoulders do in response to a work deadline or family conflict.

“A lot of times when we’re really stressed out we start to circle in on ourselves,” says Pilates instructor Brian Spencer of East River Pilates. That familiar sound of crunching and contraction?

If so, try this new 12-minute de-stress stretching routine from Spencer. He called it “PPerfect if you’re feeling a bit busy or chaotic and you want something nice, simple and easy to calm your brain and your body.”

Stretching has been shown to increase serotonin levels, which help regulate our moods. So it’s working on a brain level, as well as helping your body relieve the physical manifestations of stress, like a shortened chest muscle from everything on top of your laptop.

Spencer starts with a series of stretches in child’s pose so you can let it all out. “Child’s pose is a surrender pose,” he says. “This is a great opportunity to release any elements of clinging, holding, or controlling what you feel in your life or in your body.”

The concept of “surrender” mimics a Mayo Clinic-recommended relaxation technique called progressive muscle relaxation that involves contracting muscles and then releasing them. The act of releasing physically can also help release us emotionally.

After some bends and twists in child’s pose to open up your sides, shoulders and back, you’ll move into cat-cow pose to help lengthen your spine and add some needles to create space around your back and increase your mobility. Shoulders Next, the Baby Cobra will open up your collarbones and help prevent that roundness. A series of stretches like Happy Baby and hamstring extensions on your back will help bring it home to a relaxed, hip-opening butterfly pose.

Feel the stress melt away with each breath.

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