stretch mainly to keep my body healthy and to stave off knee pain after a run. But I also stretch because it feels good emotionally. It's a way to shake off stress or lift my spirits or take my mind off something that's nagging at me. That instinct is a natural one, and a powerful one. Some people — myself included — believe that stretching feels so nurturing not just because it gets the blood pumping, but because our bodies hold on to old traumas and negative emotions. The right pose can release some of that, freeing our minds and spirits. "When we take the time to listen to our body and to hold it in our own power, our tissue unearths countless histories and endless resiliency to keep us healing, expanding, and growing," says Toni Melaas, the CEO of Hatch NYC, an international wellness concierge business, a partner at stretch studio Outer Reach, and a professional dancer. Given the events of this past year, most of us could probably use a good stretch. With that in mind, Melaas designed a series of seven poses that are especially good at balancing emotional wellbeing. Slip into something comfortable, find a quiet spot, light a candle or some incense, and let Melaas guide you through this ultra-healing sequence. Wide-Legged Seat With Suboccipital Release
and/or headaches can happen as a result of daily activities that pull the head forward, such as computer or device work. This stretch relieves tension in the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull to offer deeper sleep and better postural alignment.
Sit up tall, widening your legs apart as far as you can while still keeping your spine straight and extending upward. Flex your feet to the sky, using the support of the back of your legs, and keep your core wrapping in toward your spine.
Place your thumbs just under your skull (occipital bone) and, with a sighing breath or a yawn, release your head forward, chin toward the chest, to massage the suboccipital muscles all the way along the underside of the skull, from the middle out to the sides.
Your core should continue to snake around the spine, to vertically lengthen and support the torso so you don't collapse into the hips, even as your head releases into your chest.
Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Roman. More Wide-Legged Seat With Roll Down
This pose releases stress and connects you to your centre.
Maintain your wide-legged seat and place your hands on the ground in between your legs, keeping your elbows soft. Roll your chin into your chest, curling inward until the muscles of your spine lift out of your pelvis.
Walk your hands over to either side of your left leg, keeping your pelvis pressed back into the floor. Allow the weight of your head to shift to the left side too.
Breathe five deep, calming breaths
into your right lower back (quadratus lumborum), letting the stress unspool in your right back waist.
Next, walk your hands through centre to either side of your right leg, and take five more deep breaths. Pause at three breaths to acknowledge how supple your spinal muscles have become.
To finish, breathe in to roll your spine back up to vertical and draw your legs together.
Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Roman. More Ardha Gomukasana Forward Fold
This move stretches tight outer hip muscles,
makes space in the hip flexors
, and allows you to root more deeply into yourself.
Sit up tall with your legs straight out in front of you. Sit on a pillow if your hamstrings and low back are too tight to maintain a long, tall spine without one.
Bend your right knee over your straight left leg, stacking your knees as best you can while cuddling your right flexed foot as close to your left outer hip as possible.
Walk your right hand down, holding the outside of your left leg, with the goal of pulling your left baby toe back to "plug" your left thigh bone back into its hip socket. While you reach for your toe, continue to engage your right arm back into your right shoulder blade to give your chest the ability to rise forward, toward your flexed left foot.
Prop your left hand next to your left outer leg to help you root your pelvis into the floor and wrap your core around the spine, making sure to avoid collapsing into your hips.
Breathe into this pose for five breaths as you root back into your right hip and release your right low back. Breathe in to sit up. Repeat on the second side.
Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Roman. More Rainbow Sphinx
This stretch opens your heart and connects you to your centre.
Lie on your belly, propped up on your forearms in
. Direct the energy of your thigh bones forward to support your core, drawing in toward your spine and forward, and up through the frame of your arms. Rolling your shoulders up and back, direct your breath into your right back waist while maintaining your ab connection.
Straighten your left arm, so the palm is touching the floor rather than the forearm.
Draw your left shoulder blade onto your back and down in the shape of a heart, supporting your rise and twist, as you wrap
around your lengthening spine.
Lift up as you breathe three deep breaths into your back waist. Inhale to bend your left elbow back to the ground and take another breath in Sphinx. Repeat on the second side.
Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Roman. More Story continues Supine Hamstring Stretch
The pose roots you and eases your nervous system as you release low back pain and
stretch your hamstrings
. While you can use a yoga strap, I invite you to hold yourself (and your leg!) with your own power.
Lie supine, with your right leg up in the air at a 90-degree angle with the floor, and with your right foot flexed.
Clasp your hands behind the mid-thigh to straighten the leg further. Direct the right hip down into the floor to create space around the sacral nerves, calming the sympathetic nervous system as you build muscle-to-bone energy and stretch dynamically.
Breathe into the depth of the leg stretch five slow times before inhaling to release the working leg down to the floor. Acknowledge the change in length and texture you just manifested before beginning the second side.
Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Roman. More Cross Lateral IT Band Stretch
Releases tension in the outer hip and leg muscles (specifically the IT Band) and grounds you in the deepening of your thigh’s connection with its hip socket (acetabulum).
Continue lying supine and widen your left arm on the floor, moving it so it rests out on an upward diagonal from your left shoulder. Again, bend your left leg up in the air at a 90-degree angle to the floor, with your foot flexed.
Clasp your right hand up over the top of your left flexed foot, so your right fingers grip the outer edge of your left foot. Extend the left leg across your body on a high diagonal to the right, directing your left hip toward the earth while straightening your left thigh and extending your heel into your hand. Worry not if you receive a
little shake in the leg muscles
for your efforts. That is muscle-to-bone energy at work.
Breathe here five times before inhaling the leg down to prepare for the second side.
Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Roman. More Legs Up The Wall
Rerouting our fluids may aid in reducing swelling, indigestion, and stress, and can help with better sleep.
Lie on your side with your feet facing the wall and scoot your bum back until it touches the wall. Roll onto your back, walking your legs up into the support of the wall, allowing your straightened legs to settle more deeply into their hip sockets under gravity’s pull.
Bend your knees a bit if your legs need a little support to maintain your
natural low back
in its curve away from the floor.
Straighten your arms at your sides with your palms facing upward, engaging the backs of your arms into the floor to support the broadening of your heart.
Breathe here for 10 to 15 slow breaths or as long as it feels healing, listening to your power as it accumulates with each inhale.
Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Roman. More Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? The Arm Stretches You Need To Know How To Help And Support Someone With Anxiety The Best Stretches For WFH Lower Back Pain