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Simple Stretches

The Martha Stewart Show, October October Fall 2007 2007

Stretching is an all-natural way to help jump-start the day. Waking up and stretching in the morning increases flexibility, mobilizes the spine, and keeps the body limber and prepared for activities of the day. These three invigorating stretches to wake up the body and mind can be done standing or sitting in a chair.

Elixir/Cat Stretch
The elixir/cat stretch invigorates and refreshes the mind by getting the blood flowing through the erector spinae area. This stretch can be done standing or sitting in a chair.

1. Stand with legs hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Place palms on thighs, toward knees. Inhale and arch back while lifting the chin toward the ceiling, being careful to not hyperextend your neck. Stick the tailbone back. Count to five, then exhale, reversing the stretch.

2. Curl the tailbone into a C shape, with elbows facing out to the sides. Count to five.

Good Morning Stretch
The good morning stretch uses deep breathing to improve circulation, focus internal energy and concentration, and release tension in the upper back, shoulders, stomach, and hips. It will stretch the side of the body, and expand the muscles of the right wrist, triceps, biceps, shoulder, upper back, abdomen, lower back, and hip muscles. This stretch can be done standing or sitting in a chair.

1. Stand with legs hip-width apart. Clasp hands together in front of chest, palms facing chest. Inhale, slowly reaching both hands to the ceiling, pressing palms up, filling lungs with oxygen.

2. Exhale while slowly reaching both arms over to the left side. Continue exhaling and reaching further to the left side, pressing through the heel of your right hand as you press down with the heel of right foot. Inhale as you come back to center.

3. Exhale while reaching and stretching over to the right side. Continue exhaling and reaching further to the right side, pressing through the heel of your left hand as you press down with the left heel of your foot.

4. Repeat stretch five times.

Chest Opener/Heart Opener
The chest opener/heart opener stretch opens up the chest muscles and front abdominal muscles, elongating muscles that are usually tight from sitting over a desk or a computer, sleeping on an airplane, or simply not walking with good posture. It helps to cleanse the liver, lifting the rib cage up and out and taking weight off the liver and kidneys.

1. Stand with hands clasped behind the head. Inhale as you bring your elbows up and out to the sides, out of your peripheral vision.

2. Lean back, looking up to the ceiling, taking deep breaths from the belly, and count to five.

3. Slowly take your left elbow down toward the floor, stretching out the right side. Exhale as you bring the elbows and chin down toward the chest, stretching the back of the neck.

4. Switch sides and repeat five times.

Tip: This stretch is a heart opener; on the inhale, you want to think of letting in every opportunity you're looking forward to that day and opening yourself up to the world. On the exhale you want to think about releasing all tension, breathing out any negative emotions.

Resources
Special thanks to personal trainer Mary Tedesco for demonstrating these simple stretches. Download Mary's exercises to your video iPod or laptop by visiting bodyfit4all.com.