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Want to wake up refreshed and go to sleep relaxed? You may just need a little more meditative movement in your life. A daily stretching routine has been shown to not only help improve circulation, but calm the mind.1,2 Try these five morning stretches and five night stretches to reap the mind and body benefits.

But first, it should be noted, like with any lifestyle change — diet or physical activity — consult your doctor to make sure it’s right for you.

Morning Stretches: Five Dynamic Stretches To Help You Wake Up And Prepare For The Day

Dynamic stretching involves movement. It helps get the body warmed up, making it a great addition to the start of your day.3

Try These Five Dynamic Stretches As Part Of Your Morning Routine

cow pose | Activated YouCat-Cow Pose

What it does: This movement is great for anyone who feels like they have to crawl out of bed in the morning. It works to help gently stretch out your back and torso.

How to do it:

  1. Starting on all fours, with your shoulders over your wrists and the tops of your feet flat on the floor, inhale deeply and let your belly drop and your back arch as you look upward slightly. (This is cow pose).
  2. cat pose | Activated YouExhale as you round your back and press your hands and tops of your feet into the floor. (This is cat pose).
  3. Repeat these movements in sync with your inhales and exhales for five breaths.4

Neck Rotations

What it does: It is estimated that by middle age, up to 50% of individuals will experience neck pain within a one-year period.5 Stretching your neck has been shown to help decrease pain and increase mobility.6

How to do it:

  1. Sitting on the edge of your bed or a chair, place your feet on the floor and keep your back straight.
  2. Slowly rotate your head in a circle, attempting to touch your ears to your shoulders.
  3. Rotate five times clockwise and five times counterclockwise.7

Warrior I Pose

What it does: This yoga move energizes the whole body and stretches out your arms, shoulders, back, legs, and ankles. It also allows for gentle stretching in the calves and feet.8

warrior 1 pose | Activated YouHow to do it:

  1. Standing tall with your feet facing forward, make sure they’re 3 ½ to 4 feet apart. Raise your hands above your head and press your palms together.
  2. Rotate your right foot out 45 to 60 degrees to the left and your left foot 90 degrees to the left. Rotate your torso to the right to square your hips.
  3. With your right heel firmly pressing into the floor, slowly bend your left knee over your left ankle.
  4. Tilt your head up, reach through your arms, and lift your rib cage away from your pelvis to feel a stretch up the back your right leg, across your abdominal muscles, and up your arms.
  5. Reverse the movement and repeat on the other side.9

Side Oblique Stretch

What it does: Warm up your lats, obliques, and hips for the day by stretching out the side of your body.

How to do it:

  1. Standing with your feet just wider than hip-distance apart, reach your left arm overhead and lean to the right.
  2. Bend your left elbow as you release the stretch and return to center.
  3. Repeat for eight counts, and then switch to the right side.10

Mountain Pose

mountain pose | Activated YouWhat it does: Starting your morning with a mindfulness of how you’re holding your body and posture can help set you up for the day. This simple move engages everything from your shoulders to your core down to the arches of your feet.

How to do it:

  1. Standing with your heels slightly apart, have your big toes touching. You can also stand with your feet slightly apart for better balance.
  2. Roll your shoulders back and down with your palms facing forward.
  3. Shift your weight slightly forward and backward with your inhales and exhales, paying attention to your posture and balance.11

Night Stretches: Five Simple Stretches To Help Prepare Yourself For A Good Night’s Sleep

There are some tried-and-true practices — limiting caffeine, avoiding screens an hour before bed, sticking to a sleep schedule — to help you prepare for sleep.12 But have you tried gentle stretching before bed?

Unlike morning stretches, which are meant to awaken the body, night stretches help you decompress, loosen tight muscles and leg cramps from sitting all day, and create calm — the perfect state for a good night’s sleep.13,14

Meditative movements (such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong) before bed has been linked to supporting overall sleep quality.15

Try These Five Simple Stretches As Part Of Your Nighttime Routine

Bear Hug

What it does: What better way to end the day than with a hug? Giving yourself a bear hug before bed may help ease tension in the upper back and shoulders caused by poor posture throughout the day.

How to do it:

  1. Standing erect, inhale deeply as you open your arms wide.
  2. Exhale as you cross your arms around yourself, with your left arm over your right.
  3. Breath in deeply as you use your hands to gently pull your shoulders forward, holding for 30 seconds.
  4. Release and continue again by inhaling deeply and opening your arms.
  5. Repeat the crossed position with the right arm now on top.16

Child’s Pose

child's pose yoga | Activated YouWhat it does: This classic yoga posture is known as a resting stretch. It works well with deep breathing, which may help promote a good night’s sleep.17

How to do it:

  1. Gently get onto your knees, and sit back on your heels.
  2. Slowly fold forward by hinging at the hips until your forehead touches the floor, feeling a gentle stretch in your glutes. You may spread your knees farther apart if that is more comfortable.
  3. Rest your arms alongside your knees. Alternatively, you can stretch your arms above your head and lightly press your palms into the floor to provide support to your neck.
  4. You can stay in this position for 1 to 3 minutes, practicing your deep breathing.18

Low Lunge

What it does: If you sit all day, you may particularly feel tension released in your groin, thighs, and hips, as well as a gentle opening in the back and shoulders. Stretching your legs before bed may also help prevent nocturnal leg cramps.19

How to do it:

  1. Slowly get into a low lunge, stopping where it is comfortable and you don’t feel too much pull. Make sure your left knee is directly over your ankle and your right leg is extended behind you, with your knee on the floor.
  2. Rest your hands either on the floor beneath your shoulders or on your left knee. Alternatively, if you feel you have the balance, you can hold your arms above you.
  3. Focus on opening your chest and lengthening your spine as you breathe deeply.
  4. Hold your lunge for five breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.20

Spinal Twist

spinal twist yoga pose | Activated YouWhat it does: For anyone who hunches all day while sitting down, this one may help spinal mobility and open up your chest.

How to do it:

  1. Lying on your back, extend your arms away from your sides.
  2. Gently cross your right leg over the left side of your body and let your right leg fall toward the floor naturally, resting your foot on the floor and your knee if it feels comfortable. You may want to place your left hand on your right knee to guide your leg.
  3. To slightly increase the twist, turn your head to the right.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing deeply. Repeat steps with left leg.21

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose

legs up the wall pose | Activated YouWhat it does: This is a restorative posture, meaning it’s designed to help you relax and release tension. It is also an inverted posture, which studies have shown helps encourage blood flow in the pelvis and legs back to the heart, supporting healthy circulation.22

How to do it:

  1. Sitting sideways with your left arm against the wall, roll onto your back as you gently swing your legs up to meet the wall.
  2. Adjust yourself until you are comfortable distance against the wall — anywhere from your bottom touching the wall to a few inches away from it.
  3. Practice deep breathing as you relax into the pose. Since this is a restorative posture, you should not feel pulling through your legs.
  4. If you are new to this, you may not last long, but you can eventually work up to holding it for 10 minutes.23

A Daily Stretching Routine For A Brighter Day And A Sounder Night’s Sleep

Stretching isn’t just for athletes — nearly anybody can benefit from starting their day and ending their night with gentle movements to create calm and relieve tension in muscles.

Learn More:
Tea For Sleep — Delicious Sips To Sweet Dreams
Sleep Deprivation Headaches (8 Ways To Get Relief!)
Health And Wellness: What Are The Benefits Of Group Exercise

Sources:
1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23676363
2 https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/98/7/2984/2537196
3 https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/dynamic-stretching
4 https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/morning-stretches#1
5 https://www.wwdpi.org/ChronicDisease/HealthTopics/MusculoskeletalDisorders/Pages/NeckPain.aspx
6 https://www.physiotherapyjournal.com/article/S0031-9406(17)30025-1/fulltext
7 https://www.verywellhealth.com/morning-stretching-exercises-2696364
8 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/yoga-for-heel-pain-plantar-fasciitis-video/
9 https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/warrior-i-pose
10 https://www.health.com/fitness/everyday-stretches
11 https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/morning-stretches#10
12 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips
13 https://health.usnews.com/wellness/fitness/articles/2017-05-19/4-simple-ways-to-ease-tight-muscles
14 https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14170-leg-cramps-at-night
15 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079215001604?via%3Dihub
16 https://www.healthline.com/health/stretching-before-bed#bear-hug
17 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6361823/
18 https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/child-s-pose
19 https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14170-leg-cramps-at-night/prevention
20 https://www.healthline.com/health/stretching-before-bed#low-lunge
21 https://www.sleepadvisor.org/stretching-before-bed/
22 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
23 https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20516/the-only-yoga-pose-you-need-for-great-sleep.html