Changing our physical, emotional, and mental states can be done with movement.

This is an effective full-body mobility routine that takes just 10 minutes, with no equipment required. You can pick and choose among these exercises if you already have a mobility routine. I learned all of these exercises from amazing coaches in workshops.

If you work out in the morning, you can consider doing this routine in the afternoon or evening as well, or skip it altogether if your warm-up routine includes some mobility exercises. In other words, your mobility routine can become part of your workout warm-up routine. Most of the time I do both a mobility routine and warm-up routine separately, as I often train in the afternoons and enjoy the extra mobility training.

If you cannot do a full mobility routine for some reason, consider doing just a spider stretch with rotation. Even a few minutes a day can make a big difference.

Remember to breathe deeply as you move, and connect your breath to your body. This is the most important thing of all. Focus on your breathing and relaxing the body, letting go of tension. Think of breathing exercises with movement.

Morning Stretch Routine

Neck Stretch

VanPamelen suggests a neck stretch to relieve any tension caused by sleeping in odd positions. Be careful not to go too far, as many of us are quite stiff in the morning and you don’t want to get hurt.

  1. Slowly and gently bring your left ear down toward your left shoulder.
  2. Use your left hand to gently pull the right side of your head toward your left shoulder to bring the left ear and shoulder closer together. 
  3. Hold for 15 seconds, breathing deeply and slowly.
  4. Repeat on the other side, using your right arm.

Child’s Pose

This yoga position is a great way to stretch the spine and shoulders, back, and chest.

  1. Kneel with your knees hip-width apart and your feet coming together behind you.
  2. Exhale while lowering your torso to rest on your thighs as you sit your butt back toward your feet.
  3. Straighten your arms past your head and reach forward, palms down, as far as you can, concentrating on extending your spine.

Cat-Cow

The cat-cow is a stretching exercise that is good for the spine, hips, neck, and core musculature. It is called the cat-cow because it has you alternating between two postures, each reminiscent of one of the animals.

  1. Kneel on all fours so that your hands are on the ground under your shoulders and your knees are on the ground under your hips. 
  2. Start with a flat back and neutral spine.
  3. Engage your abdominals as you inhale deeply.
  4. Exhale while drawing your navel toward your spine and rounding your spine up toward the ceiling.
  5. Bring your chin gently to your chest.
  6. Inhale while arching your back and lifting your head and tailbone toward the ceiling.
  7. Repeat up to 10 times.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This yoga pose will help you feel more grounded in the morning, improve your posture, stretch your hamstrings, and elongate your spine.

  1. Stand with the bases of your big toes together and your heels slightly apart.
  2. Rock onto your heels so that you can lift your toes and the balls of your feet.
  3. Fully spread and fan out your toes as they are elevated, and then lay them comfortably spaced back on the floor.
  4. Make sure your weight is well-balanced between your two feet.
  5. Contract your quads to lift your kneecaps, and allow your inner thighs to rotate slightly inward.
  6. Contract your pelvic floor muscles and abdominals so that your body is nice and tall.
  7. Take a deep breath, broadening your collarbones and drawing your shoulder blades back.
  8. Relax your face, and imagine the crown of your head reaching up high to the sky as you elongate your spine.

Forward Fold Stretch

After you finish your morning stretch routine, a classic forward fold is the perfect way to end it. Yogis know that this stretch can also be used as a place of rest and reflection, which makes it ideal for setting your daily intentions. According to VanPamelen, “A forward fold is a great, easy way to stretch your hamstrings and release your lower back.”

  1. Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hinge at your hips so that your upper body hangs down over your legs.
  3. Place your hands where they comfortably land (floor, legs, or ankles).
  4. Hold while taking deep breaths, gently swaying back and forth from one side to the other, and nodding your head “yes” and shaking your head “no.” 
  5. To return to standing, draw your navel toward your spine, and slowly roll up one vertebra at a time.

Seated Oblique Stretch

VanPamelen claims that this stretch elongates your spine and targets your rib cage and obliques.

  1. Sit cross-legged.
  2. Lace your fingers together (with your palms facing upward), and raise your arms above your head to elongate your spine.
  3. Slowly lean to one side, and hold for a few breaths.
  4. Repeat, leaning to the other side.

You will feel much better about your day if you do these stretches slowly. Rausch reminds us to listen to our bodies and learn our limits.

“Always use the breath. It’s a powerful tool to help relieve muscle tension, reduce pain, and will allow you to surrender and safely move deeper into the stretch,” she says. “Diaphragmatic breathing (aka focused belly breathing) is an approachable practice for anyone and a great way to learn how to breathe more fully and consciously. As you are in your stretch, simply focus the attention on expanding the belly on your inhale and gently contracting the belly on your exhale.”

If you don’t have time for all 11 stretches, that’s okay. According to Bullock, even just one stretch in the morning is beneficial to you physically and mentally. However, Bullock recommends doing at least five stretches, focusing on either a tight area or one for each major area of the body. On days when I don’t have time for the full routine, I make sure to do child’s pose, cat-cow, and the forward fold.

Take your time with the pose and don’t rush through it.

Mobility Routine Exercises

Perform the routine by moving from one exercise to the next, taking about 1 minute for each exercise. To optimize the effects, breathe slowly and deeply. Instead of fighting the stretch, relax into it.

Hands, Fingers, & Wrists Flexibility

Description

The following text contains three stretches that many gymnasts do before training that can also help mobilize the hands, wrists, and fingers. The first stretch is supination, the second is pronation, and the third is finger holds. All three of these stretches are important for mobilizing the human hand, which contains 27 small bones, 27 joints, and 34 muscles. When doing these stretches, it is important not to push through tightness, but to breathe deeply and relax instead.

Instructions

Supination
  1. Start in a kneeling stance with your hands against the ground in front of you in line with your shoulders
  2. Your fingers are pointed towards your body
  3. Rock back so that you feel a stretch in your fingers and wrists
Pronation
  1. Start in a kneeling stance and align your hands so that the top of your hands are flat against the ground about shoulder width apart and in line with your shoulders
  2. Your fingers are pointing to the right and left sides of your body
  3. You will slowly lean over your hands to add weight so you feel a stretch
Finger Holds
  1. Start by slowly pulling your thumb and forefinger away from each other to create a gentle stretch
  2. Then one by one, pull each finger backward and the fingers on each side forwards at the same time.

Rocking With Head Nods

Description

You can improve your body’s movement by doing a simple rocking exercise. This was something you did all the time as a child, and it can help you regain some of that lost mobility.

Instructions

  1. Start in a kneeling position with your arms straight out in front of you on the floor about shoulder width
  2. Extend your knees outwards as much as you can comfortably
  3. Rock forward and backward as you breathe into your belly and slowly improve the range of motion in your hips
  4. Rock backward and look straight ahead
  5. Look up and hold the position while breathing into your belly
  6. Look down and hold the position while breathing into your belly
  7. Look to the right and left and hold the position while breathing into your belly
  8. Repeat as desired

Lying Hip Rotations

Description

This exercise helps you build more mobility in your hips by working the muscles that cause others to become stiff. It may be difficult to do in a small space, but you can choose an alternative if needed. This exercise also helps improve your flexibility in the hamstrings and groin.

Instructions

  1. Lie down with your back on the floor, legs extended straight, toes pointed upward, and arms at your sides.
  2. Pull your right leg up off the ground as high as you can while keeping it straight and toes pulling toward your shins
  3. Pull your leg across to your right side in one circle and make the circle as big as possible
  4. Then pull your leg across your left side clockwise, continuing with one big circle while keeping your back and head against the ground
  5. Continue for desired reps, then change the direction so that it’s counterclockwise
  6. Then switch to the other leg

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Description

The seated hamstring stretch is a great way to improve flexibility in your hip, hamstrings, and calves. If you feel pain in your hamstrings or lower back, try bending the knee of your straight leg slightly and relaxing into the stretch.

Instructions

  1. Start seated with your legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Bend your right knee bringing your right foot to the inside of your left thigh.
  3. Staying tall through your spine, fold over your straight leg reaching your chest towards your knee.
  4. As best you can, try to hinge from your hips before you round your back.
  5. Hold for the prescribed amount of time. Repeat on the other side.

Mobility Routine Benefits

Improves Joint Range Of Motion

If you don’t use the full range of motion of your joints, you will slowly lose it. This can lead to arthritis, low-back pain, loss of muscle mass, and increased stiffness.

Build Exceptional Strength

The more flexible you become, the more you increase your potential for strength. In order to be exceptionally strong, you must first be exceptionally flexible.

Longevity

If you want to be able to function well when you are older, it is important to be mobile. Being mobile on a daily basis can help to keep you feeling young, since being active is the best way to counteract a sedentary lifestyle.

 

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