Stretching in general feels so underappreciated, but especially stretching at nighttime. A lot of the time we think stretching is only applicable when we are about to exercise or play a sport. This is not true! Incorporating stretches into your evening routine has plenty of benefits, which we will explore below - but it also just makes us feel... good. Limber! If you will.
A long time ago, my medical massage therapist told me that I was "so attuned" with my body. I agree with that. I am usually hyperaware of what is happening in my body, I listen to that and act on it however my gut tells me to without much further thought. Stretching at nighttime is one of those instances. I started doing this a very long time ago, not because someone told me it would be good for me, but because my body wanted... no, needed it. To the person reading this who is more on the mental than intuitive scope, this could sound bizarre. However, it really happened this way. I began moving to the floor when we would sit down to watch a show in the evenings and doing a series of stretches combined with any movement that just "felt right." No science behind my thought process, just doing what feels good.
Today, I think it is important to look at the science though - for those on the mental scope here. When I say "mental," I mean the people who might question when someone tells them something and ask, "What makes you think that?" they reply, "I just have a feeling," and that person thinks to themself, "So you have no proof." THIS IS NORMAL BY THE WAY!
Been there. Done that.
The mental part of our brain wants to make sense of things and I am here to compile my research and scratch that itch for you! Because I myself shifted into mental, and I wanted to know why. Why does my nighttime stretching feel so good? Why does my body need me to do this and push me to do this? Maybe this is why science exists in the first place? Someone picked up a bug of curiosity and just simply wanted to know, "Why?"
So let's find out.
I went through several articles and even other blog posts in my own research, but I felt Medical News Today encompasses what I was looking for best.
The Benefits of Stretching
Improves your blood circulation
Limbers you! AKA increases your mobility
Relieves muscle tension, aches, pains
Improves your mood and - it's a stress reliever!
Can help promote weight loss
And naturally, it reduces your chances of injury (think stretching before & after exercise here)
The Benefits of Stretching at Nighttime
Improves your sleep quality and sleep duration! How? Scroll up again. Reduced muscle tension, improved blood circulation, mood booster... need I say more?
Relieves stress: think of the stress you carried in your neck and shoulders as you sat at your desk all day, grinding. We can improve that!
Depending on the stretches you incorporate - improved digestion. Everyone wants a better morning poop, it's just a fact of life. I will list one below to help with this!
Now that we have a nice comprehensive list of stretching benefits, here are some you can do at home tonight to get started.
P.S. I personally do each of these stretches almost every night! Remember that drinking plenty of water will improve your mobility and flexibility as well - and never continue with a stretch if it is causing pain. Stretching can cause discomfort, but listen to your body when discomfort becomes pain.
Stretches for Nighttime
Bear Hugs: Standing with feet hip width apart, hug yourself. Swing your arms out wide and alternate which arm is on top. Do this for a round of 30 seconds or however long... "feels right." (See what I did there?)
Head Rolls: Standing with feet hip width apart (or sitting), slowly (SLOWLY) dip your chin to your chest and roll your ear to your right shoulder. Hold for 3 deep breaths and roll back to chest and ear to left shoulder. Hold for another 3 deep breaths.
Cat Cow: In tabletop position (hands directly under shoulders, knees directly under hips, flat back), take a deep inhale and lift your head up to look at the ceiling as your spine dips down, stomach towards the floor. On the exhale, round your spine with back going towards the ceiling now and chin dipping in to your chest. Do this movement with 3-5 inhales and exhales. Do what feels good here, sometimes I shift my hips side to side on my inhale and push my body back towards my heels as I am rounding on the exhale.
Forward Bend: Standing with feet hip width apart, bend and reach for your toes. You can hang out here, let the head fall and release tension in the neck.
Child's Pose: In a kneeling position, bring your knees out wide, feet together. Your forehead will dip to the floor and arms reach out on the floor in front of you. 3-5 deep breaths here will feel good. This is one position that is great for digestion. If your hips are tight, you might bring your knees closer together.
Upward Dog: My favorite position to aid digestion. I do this after dinner quite often and again at nighttime. This is an abdomen stretch but can be hard on your lower back if you are not used to it. Good news, there's a variation! But first - laying on your stomach with legs behind you, bring your hands to the floor right around your chest. Push up, leaving your legs on the floor. Try to reach the crown of your head towards the ceiling to avoid the turtle neck - thinking of it as coming out of your shell. This will open your chest and allow you to get a good breath. To do a variation, do not push up all the way, only halfway (this is Cobra). In Cobra, you can incorporate breathwork like lifting up on the inhale and coming down on the exhale. Try looking over each shoulder when you lift up and breathe in.
Butterfly: In a sitting position, bring your feet together to touch in front of you. Stay in this position and breathe, or slide your feet out a little bit and forward bend towards them hinging at your waist. You can open your feet here with your hands, like a "reading a book," as Tony from P90X would say.
Seated Glute Stretch: In a seated position, bring your right ankle to sit on top of your left knee. Hinge at your waist and hold for 3-5 breaths. Try to hinge a little further on each exhale and reach for the floor in front of you. Remember to switch sides and bring left ankle to right knee.
And there you have it! These are my "must have" stretches when rolling around on the floor at nighttime. If you decide to give them a try, let me know in the comments!