Our angelic newborn who slept in 6 to 9-hour long stretches just days after leaving the hospital stopped that stellar sleeping habit about two weeks ago. I wonder if it’s a growth spurt, teeth, the cold she has, or some combination of these potentialities, but…all I can focus on is what I have to get done and try to set my delirium aside for short bursts of time. If I didn’t take at least a short amount of time each day for myself, I would really be up the proverbial creek on days like today.
Because today, Miriam and I are both exhausted. We both are a little less than 100%. She nursed every fifteen minutes, snarfing all night as if to demand an answer as to why she can’t breathe through her nose. I am exhausted and just want to nap, but with two kids…I can’t do that anymore. There’s just so much more of everything—more of the good stuff like kisses, smiles, and hugs, but more of the tedious stuff like laundry, cleaning, and errands. On days like today, this little series of exercises kind of clears out stress and helps me get a little boost of energy.
Disclaimer: I am not a fitness teacher. I don’t hold certifications to advise on any kind of exercise or physical therapy. I intend this to just be a guideline, hoping that others enjoy it and that they find similar benefits as I have found. I do take classes at my gym regularly, and I have pulled all of my ideas from those classes and focus on what I have learned from the instructors.
The routine itself takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on how many repetitions of each stretch you do, and whether you add anything you like to do into the mix. I change it up almost every time, but the following stretches are my go-to’s, my Prozac, and are always included. I aim to do this daily, sometimes falling short of that goal; I aim to complete each stretch four times, sometimes only doing each once. Go with how you feel.
Your Mountain Pose and Establishing Breath
From here, I start breathing as long and as wide as I can. The inhale and exhale should be slow and deliberate–make each eight counts if you can. I aim to keep this posture for a majority of the standing parts of this routine. I wake up my body by breathing into the following parts–belly, ribs, and then chest. When the individual parts are warmed up, I take long breaths that start in the belly and travel up and around to the back of my body, trying to maintain this style of breathing the entire routine.
Wake Up the Shoulders
Keeping my mountain pose strong (toes spread, weight distributed evenly on my feet, and the same alignment as above) and keeping my breathing as described, I think of my shoulder blades as wheels and let them move my arms up to just in front of my ears and back down to my sides.
Still holding my alignment, I isolate work in the shoulder blades through shrugs and squeezes. First I perform them with arms at my side and then extended out in front.
Add Balancing and Feet Stretching
Still keeping my alignment, abs connecting with each exhale, long breath…I scissor my arms. The goal with this is to have your hands pass each other in the center of the body.
Then, I add a releve while scissoring my arms.
After I have done four scissors and scissors with the releve, I sit my heels on an imaginary counter. Basically, you lower to just until your heels are on the floor, and while off the floor, you push your heels down. The goal is to have your body aligned and keep very still. I try to hold this for three or four long breaths.
Stretch Out the Back
Keeping a straight back, I lower into a forward fold. Once my hands touch the floor (bending my knees if I need to), I take three or four long breaths, trying to hinge more at the hip with each breath. It should feel nothing but good along your hamstrings.
From the forward fold, depending on my energy level, I either jump or step back into downward dog. I toggle between downward and upward dog, trying to do three repetitions.
I find real strength in and enjoy the effort of these postures. If I tweak the smallest thing, they become more challenging. Each of the following stretches is done on both sides. For all four, I focus on evenly distributing the weight between both legs, no matter which leg is front or back, bent or straight. I also try to be as still as possible. You need to be very careful about the placement of your feet. Your knee always needs to follow your foot direction and should be in line with your second toes.
Time for the Cool-Down
I finish the last warrior pose on my second side and then parallel my feet and bend into a wide leg forward fold. This feels amazing, and I always enjoy how at this point of the little routine, I am a lot more warmed up and flexible.
From the wide leg forward fold, I squat down and sit with a straight spine for a seated forward fold. Just like with the standing one, I try to keep my arms in front of my ears and my spine flat and in a long line. I hold this pose for three or four breaths.
Laying in corpse pose, I have so many thoughts that come rushing, usually, more nagging ones than not. I ‘hear’ the thought and send it on. For me, it works to imagine the thought moving on like the old school cellphone graphic confirming your text was sent. On really productive days, after this routine and savasana, I walk away with clarity. I always feel more alert and more poppy and active in my brain.
I hope this little practice helps you feel energized and strong like it does for me. I would love to hear if you like it and what you tweaked.