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Four Soothing Stretches

Martha Stewart Weddings, Winter 2004

The right exercises can reduce stiffness and improve posture. Start a program six months before the wedding, and you'll be more poised walking down the aisle. "Stretching is a wonderful way to relieve tension caused by stress and anxiety," says Elisabeth Halfpapp, vice president of Mind Body Programming at Exhale, a spa in New York City. We asked her for easy moves that a bride-to-be can do daily. Choose the ones that will help you most.

Upper/Middle Back
Sit cross-legged, arms extended; cross left arm over right so left elbow is in crook of right arm. Bend arms 90 degrees; bring fingers of right hand to left palm. Keeping shoulders down, raise elbows to shoulder height. Hold 30 seconds. Release, and switch. Repeat three times.

Shoulders
Sit in a cross-legged position with neck, back, and hips in a straight line; pull in abdominal muscles. Interlace fingers behind back; straighten arms, and press shoulder blades together. Keeping shoulders down and arms straight, raise arms up and away from back. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three times.

Neck
Sit in a chair, feet on the floor, with neck, back, and hips in a straight line; pull in abdominals. Interlace fingers; place on back of head. Keeping spine straight and shoulders down, gently pull head down, lowering chin toward chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Release. Repeat three times.

Deep Breathing
Kathy Sprague, mind-body coordinator at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, recommends slow breathing for instant calm. Inhale through the nose to a count of four. Hold for seven beats, then exhale through the mouth to a count of eight. Repeat four times.

Spine
Left: Sit with right leg bent over left, right foot flat on floor. Keeping spine straight and shoulders and hips down, twist to right, bracing left arm on outside of right knee. Hold 30 seconds. Release; switch sides. Repeat three times.