Our bodies are totally different physically and chemically in the moment right before bed compared to when we rise in the morning. Stretching first thing in the morning can relieve any tension or pain from sleeping the night before. It also helps increase your blood flow and prepares your body for the day ahead. Stretching before bed relaxes your muscles and helps prevent you from waking up with more pain.
No one wants to wake up sore, or worse, in pain. We have all had those mornings where you wake up stiff, uncomfortable, or even with painful, numb, or tingly sensations caused by pinched nerves and knots in our muscles. When we sleep our bodies often lay in strange positions for hours on end. Even if you stretched before you went to bed and your muscles felt limber and relaxed, you can still end up waking up with tightness and discomfort.
In this case, one of the worst things you can do to your body is jump out of bed and hit the ground running. Especially if you are someone who likes to run or workout first thing when you wake up. A good way to ease into your morning is by stretching.
That is the time to check in with your body, what feels stiff, what feels uncomfortable. Therefore, take the time to stretch your body slowly and gently. Align your body before starting your day. It can also help you start to wake up as your mind becomes aware and your body begins to move and wake up.
Best stretches when you wake up
For your morning stretches, it is best to start slowly. However, you can also get much more active as you continue to stretch and start your morning. This can be a good way to slowly wake up the body and even begin to get your blood moving again. Feel free to play some energetic music, open up the blinds, turn on some lights and enjoy this precious time of caring for yourself before you start your day.
Morning stretching routine:
Ironically, the best way to start your day is stretching from the ground up – as though to continue the position you’ve stayed in the whole night. Starting in your lower body and slowly waking up your joints and muscles from your legs to your torso to your neck and head.
Legs and hips stretches
To start nice and easy, lay on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Pull your knees toward your chest and hug them with your arms. Take a few deep breaths in this position. Do this again but one leg at a time with the opposite leg laying down flat.
Now stand up with your feet slightly further than shoulder width apart. Next, lower your back and arms towards the ground. Again, try to keep your back nice and straight while you do this. It is more important that your back is straight than it is to touch the ground. Then shift your arms to stretch toward your left foot, breath in and out. Then take both of your hands and stretch toward your right foot and breath again.
Sit in a “butterfly position” on the floor. (If you are not familiar with it, this is when you sit on the floor and put your heels together and allow your knees to go down towards the floor.) If you can let your knees go as close to the ground as possible and lean forward into the stretch. Again, keep your back straight during this stretch.
Stand back up straight and go to a wall or door frame. In this stretch, you are going to be twisting your upper body in order to stretch your back. Stand up facing the wall, take your left hand and place it on the right side of the wall. Then twist your shoulders to the left. Do this process again with your right side of your body. This should open up your back.
Next, repeat the stretch we have for nighttime stretches. Start standing up, take a deep breath in. As you breathe out, slowly lower your head towards the floor.
Slowly stretch out your spine along the way. This time at the bottom, keeping your arms loosey goosey, give yourself a little bounce up and down. Keep it gentle. Then slowly rise back up while taking a deep breath in, and release.
Neck and shoulders stretches
Take your left hand and place it reaching up over your head and behind the base of your neck. Your elbow should be pointing up towards the sky. Next, take your right hand and gently push on your left elbow but not too hard, this is just a gentle way to assist the stretch. Repeat on your right side. Finish off your morning stretching by letting your head rest over toward one shoulder, breathing in and out. Then repeat on the other side. Then you are ready to start your day!
Your body has been working hard for you all day. Even relaxed days can lead to tension. If you go to sleep with your body all tensed up, this can lead to a lot of aches and pains in the morning. By stretching out your muscles and relieving tension before you go to bed, you are much more likely to wake up without aches and pains.
This can also be a great time to treat yourself with kindness and relax while you wind down before bed.
Best stretches before going to bed
When you are stretching before bed, try to create a relaxing routine out of it. Turn down the lights and put on some relaxing music. Remember that you can always do a more rigorous stretching routine in the morning.
Evening stretching routine:
Here is a routine that is ideal before going to bed to help you relax and release any tension from your head to your toes.
Neck and shoulders stretches
First, stand up straight and tall, making sure your knees are not locked, and slightly bent. Draw both of your shoulders up towards your ears, then push them back and down. Feel free to repeat this a couple of times.
Next, allow yourself to drop your head to the left, bringing your ear closer to your shoulder. Take a deep breath in. As you slowly release your breath, relax further into the stretch. Then slowly raise your head back to a normal position. Repeat this on your right side.
Remain in your standing position. From here, allow your head to gently fall forward. Then slowly, inch by inch, lower your head down towards the floor. Feel your spine round and stretch as you move closer to the floor. As you do this, allow your arms to hang freely. Don’t try to hold them stight by your side.
When you go as far as you can without fully bending your knees, hang there comfortably for a moment and let gravity stretch out your back. Wrap your arms around your back and take a deep breath in and out. Then slowly roll back up into a standing position.
Move to lying down on the floor on your back. You could do this lying in bed, however the floor will give you a little more resistance lending to a better overall stretch. Lay your arms straight out so you’re making a T-shape with your body. Allow your head to rest gently looking toward your right hand. Take your bent right leg, left leg straight on the ground, and send your right knee over to the left. Touch your knee to the floor if you can and try to keep your shoulders on the ground. Repeat this on your left side.
Legs and hips stretches
From a lying position, sit up straight with your legs out in front of you. Slowly stretch your arms out towards your feet. If you can, hold the bottoms of your feet or ankles gently. If you can’t, allow your hands to rest on your shins.
It’s more important to keep your back straight and lean your body forwards than to reach your arms as far as they can go. It’s okay if you aren’t able to go too far. You should feel this stretch on the back of your legs and calves, if you feel pain in your lower back, allow yourself to relax out of the stretch.
Next, spread your legs apart and go forward again. Then go back and forth stretching towards one leg and then the other. Remember to breathe into your stretches and slowly go deeper.
Always listen to your body while you’re doing your evening stretching. If you need to stretch out a particular area for longer or with additional positions, do it – listen to your body.
Whether it is stretching before going to bed or when you wake up, or better yet both, it is important to add stretching to your daily routine for better health and sleep.
What our clients share about their stretching
Daniel A. “For me, it is better to stretch in the morning. I stretch in the morning, because I have tight calves, and it is painful for me to step on the floor without stretching them first.”
“I do both. Very important though to keep stretching light in the evening, especially if you do it before bed as too intense session will disturb sleep hormone production”
“I do both when I can! It helps me wake up and be ready for the day in the morning and helps me wind down and relax at night.”
“Both. I benefit the most from having a longer stretch (5-20 min) in the morning and just a quick stretch in the evening/night”
“I find that it is more helpful to stretch in the morning, right as I’m waking up to start my day on a “self positive” note.”
Are you new to stretching?
In case you’re new to stretching, don’t worry – we have your back! Check out our latest blog posts where we’re focussing on different aspects of stretching.
Last week, we introduced our new Quick Stretch video series on Facebook. Give your body the stretch it needs during your busy working day. If your work day involves a lot of work on your computer, chances are your wrists are a bit tired towards the end of the day. Follow us to get the free videos every Monday!
If you’d rather follow along, we encourage you to try our 7-day free trial. It will give you a flavour of the different types of stretching classes we do every week – Full Body Stretch & Stress Release, Morning Stretch & Mobility, Lower Body Stretch & Splits, Stretch for Desk Workers, Barre & Stretch and Balance & Stretch.
In either case, happy stretching, make sure you don’t skip it!