It's that weird but exciting time of the year when you're either heading back to work after a couple of weeks off or heading away for the summer holidays. Whether it's back to your 9-5 at the desk, in the car on a road trip or finally heading back on an airplane, sitting for long periods can take a toll on our bodies.
We wanted to show you the best Pilates stretches there are for when your body feels a little tight, sore and in need of some TLC.
The best thing about these stretches is that they are quick, easy and can be done anywhere, so if you need a quick pick me up between meetings or a stretch on your road trip pit stop these are the perfect for you.
Downward Dog Stretch
This one is a classic. Start off with downward dog to release tension through your entire body. We aren't kidding when we say downward dog can help loosen through the neck, shoulders, arms, back, hamstrings, calves and even the underside of your foot known as the plantar fascia. It’s the full body stretch you didn't know you needed.
To set up, start on your hands and knees with your hands a little further forward than your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Turn your toes under and lift your knees up, but keep them slightly bent. Gently press your heels down towards the ground keeping them from touching the floor. You can move around until you find a position that feels right for you, notice where the tension is and hold for a few breaths. To add in a cheeky calf stretch, bring your right heel to the ground and slowly swap from left to right.
Thread The Needle
Thoracic (upper back) stiffness and pain is extremely common for desk workers and those alike. This stretch will be an absolute saviour for anyone who feels any tension in the middle part of their spine and can also help those experiencing neck pain after long hours sitting.
To set up, start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Starting on the right side, bring your right hand straight up, reaching for the sky. Then slowly bring it down underneath your body threading it under your left shoulder, and letting your shoulder sink into the movement. You can repeat the movement again or hold this position to create rotation through your spine. Make sure to repeat on the left too!
Cat Cow Stretch
This one is another great one for anyone experiencing mid spine tightness, especially those who find themselves slouching over their desk at the end of the day. This Pilates stretch exists to introduce both flexion and extension through the spine and free up the ribs, neck and other surrounding structures.
To set up, start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. To begin the cat phase of this stretch tuck your head and your pelvis in as you begin to create a rounding through the spine, letting your shoulder blades relax and come forward towards your hands. Hold here for 10 seconds. Then, slowly start to sink your back and belly button towards the ground, creating an opposite arch within your spine and forming the “cow” part of the stretch. Lift your eyes and chin towards the sky and let your pelvis untuck so you're sticking your bum out in the air. The cow stretch may feel a little more intense after sitting for long periods so make sure to take big deep breaths. Alternate between both the Cow and Cat positions, transitioning slowly between each.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Sitting down for long periods can shorten the muscles at the front of our hips leading to tightness in the muscles that support the pelvis, lower limbs and back. You may not experience hip pain directly but may feel restricted through the hips when walking, running or performing some Pilates exercises such as lunges or squats. Trust us when we say, don't skip out on stretching out your hips!
Starting on your knees and your hands on your hips, bring one foot forward, making sure your foot is aligned with your hip. Start to slowly scoop your pelvis under and bring your weight forward until you feel a stretch at the front of your hip in your back leg. You may need to wiggle around until you find a position that is comfy for you. To elevate this stretch, lift the opposite hand to the leg that is forward straight up (e.g. if my left leg is forward, my right hand comes up) and lean over to the other side of your body. Make sure you repeat on the other side too.
Have you ever sat for so long that your bum gets numb? Well it probably doesn't come as a surprise that when you sit on your bum all day you may have a sore butt too, especially in a seat that isn't designed for prolonged sitting (we are looking at you car seats). Whilst our glutes are the most powerful muscle in our body, they are also there to help stabilise the hips and pelvis. They are a very important part of our everyday life, so ensuring we give them a good stretch will help loosen them up for when we need them!
Start seated, and bring your right ankle over your left knee. You can begin by very lightly pushing down onto your right knee to feel a stretch in the same glute. If you feel like you need more of a stretch, lie on your back and bring your hands behind your left knee and gently bring that knee closer to your chest, and keep your right ankle in position. You can adjust your ankle, hands or knees to make this stretch work better for you. Repeat on the other side.
The hamstrings may not be the first muscle you think of when thinking about sitting, but tight hamstrings can be a big cause of back, hip, knee or ankle pain. Our hamstrings stretch over both our hip joint and knee joint, so when we are seated with bent knees, the hamstrings shorten which can create tension throughout the back of your legs. There are many ways to stretch out the hamstrings, we have chosen a kneeling hamstring stretch as there is minimal equipment required but if you prefer standing or lying, those will work too.
Begin in a kneeling position and extend your right foot forward and tuck your back toes under. Gently fold your body forward over your right foot until you feel a stretch at the back of your leg, keeping your toes pointed to the sky. If you have a block, book or bag handy, you can use that to stabilise your hand if you are unable to rest it on the ground. Repeat on the other side.
For more Pilates stretches head to Go Chlo Pilates On Demand and check out “The Stretch” classes. We have a library of over 50 stretch classes waiting for you. Click here to start your 14 day free trial or see the range of classes here.