These chair stretches can help relieve tension and tightness, and help improve your stride.
While running and walking are both great forms of exercise, the repetitive motion of these activities can cause major tightness and muscular imbalances in the body without a balanced flexibility plan. This yoga routine incorporates the use of a sturdy chair to support basic stretches designed to loosen up the typically tight areas that walkers and runners often face. Try this session after a walk or run up to five days a week.
Be sure to listen to your body and move into the poses to your own degree so you don’t over stretch—you should never feel pain during a stretch.
#1: Chest Opener
While walkers and runners typically focus on stretching the lower body, it’s equally important to open up the upper body muscles. The repetitive motion of swinging arms coupled with “computer” posture can leave chest muscles tight and shoulders slumped forward. This stretch helps open up the chest, shoulders and even the biceps.
Begin seated on the edge of a chair with knees together, feet flat on the floor. Sit tall and rotate your upper body to the right, extending the right arm over top of chair, with thumb facing up, looking back over right shoulder.
Hold for 30-60 seconds, breathing deeply. Keeping right arm over the back of chair, slowly turn torso to face forward again, rotating palm down as shoulders turn away from chair.
Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat full series on the opposite side.
#2: Seated Twist
Release tension and stiffness in the lower back and hips with this gentle twisting pose.
Begin seated on the edge of a chair with your right leg crossed over the left, holding on to the edge of a chair on either side of the hips. Sit tall and extend your left arm up to ceiling, taking a deep breath in.
As you exhale, slowly rotate your torso to the right, looking back over right shoulder and pressing your left hand against the outside of your right knee for leverage for your twist. Rotate to whatever degree feels comfortable for you.
Hold for 30 to 60 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
#3: Seated Half Pigeon
Open up and release tight hips with this easier-on-the-knees version of the traditional pigeon pose.
Sit with your right leg crossed over the left, trying to stack your ankle over the left thigh. Open your right knee out to the side (feel free to modify this angle more as needed for sensitive knees). Take a deep breath in, lifting taller through the spine as both arms extend overhead.
As you exhale, hinge forward from the hips until you feel the stretch in the right hip. Fold forward over the right leg and use your arms to help gently weight the right leg, and assist further into the stretch.
Again, go only to the degree that feels comfortable for your body. Hold for 30-60 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
#4: Seated Warrior
This flowing, gentle stretch opens up the muscles in the inner thighs and sides of the torso.
From a seated position, open legs out into a wide straddle, bending the left knee at about 90 degrees to the side of hip, toes facing left, and extending the right leg out straight in line with the hip. Toes face front with torso facing forward (feel free to place a block or phone book under each foot if needed to make this more comfortable for the thighs). Move into side angle pose by bending your left elbow, placing the left forearm on top of the left thigh, extending right arm by ear, leaning torso to the left. Focus your eyes on the right hand or, if that bothers your neck, look straight ahead or down at the floor. Take a deep breath into the stretch.
As you exhale, slowly move into reverse warrior by lowering your right arm to thigh, reaching your right hand down towards the foot as your left arm extends up to the ceiling, lifting the torso up tall.
Slowly move back and forth between these two poses, using your breath as your guide (inhale into side angle pose, exhale into reverse warrior), four times in total. Repeat on the opposite side.
#5: Standing Psoas and Quadriceps Stretch
Stretch deeply into the muscles that keep you moving forward during your walk or run with this standing stretch.
Stand behind a chair, holding on to the back for balance. Bend your left knee, grabbing onto the foot with your left hand to help pull the heel in closer to the body. Press your hips forward and try to squeeze your knees together while you hold the position. Too tough to grasp your foot with your hands? Try using a towel wrapped around your ankle to lengthen your reach. Hold for 30-60 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
#6: Supported Triangle
Stretch the hamstrings and the calves with this final pose.
Standing behind a chair with your feet together, take a big step back with your left foot so that the legs are open about three feet apart. Hinge forward from the hips and, keeping your spine neutral and heels pressed into the floor, bend your elbows to place the forearms gently on the back of the chair for support. Feel free to bend your knees as much as needed to avoid rounding the spine, and keep hips square to the chair. Hold for 30-60 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
For more chair stretches like these, be sure to check out our “30-Minute Stride, Stretch and Relax” session included in our “Walk On: 21 Day Weight Loss Plan” program! It’s the perfect recovery-day session to get your blood flowing, relieve stress, and ease soreness.
Photos by: Vanessa Rogers Photography
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