Modern living already misaligns your body. But, as is usually the case, fatherhood ratchets things up another notch. Because, in addition to the daily damage done by, say, slumping your head to swipe at your smartphone or slouching in front of your laptop, you’re now regularly bent over your kids, tying shoes or delivering some eye-level advice.
Some help: this stretching routine offered up by Jess Gronholm, co-founder of online yoga platform Dirty Yoga. It’s designed to counter the contortions you put your body through every day, and specifically targets the muscles of your neck, back, hamstrings, and shoulders. Done regularly, it should prevent you from slouching like a scolded teenager and open up your muscles and joints.
“This is an engaged stretch that creates flexibility for the legs and stability and mobility for the shoulders and back,” Gronholm says. He adds that, unlike a plank where you’re worried about swaying your back or dipping your shoulders, it’s a low-impact idea to start your routine.
How To Do It
- Place both palms and feet on the floor with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-distance apart.
- Push with your hands to anchor your palms to the floor.
- Engage your triceps and straighten your arms while simultaneously reaching your heels down towards the floor, lifting up through the fronts of your legs. (A bend in the knees or elbows is fine and may help deepen the stretch in your back.)
- Hold for 30 seconds.
Terrible Adam Sandler movie, or classic yoga pose? Well, one stretches the hips, back, and hamstrings — problem areas for anyone who sits or hunches. The other you probably watch on Netflix when you had the flu.
How To Do It
- Sit up straight on the floor with your back supported against the front of your couch, a chair, or the wall.
- Pull your legs in front of you and bring the soles of your feet together.
- Let your knees fall outward, creating a diamond shape with your legs. Now, place your hands on your knees.
- Hold for at least 5 minutes to allow your hips to open.
Done properly, this movement opens up your hips, hamstrings, and back. But focus on more than just your opposite side: “When guys try to go into forward bends, they get caught in their backs,” says Gronholm. “The stretch doesn’t make its way into the hamstrings or hips. Instead of folding forward, sit up straight and tall to make your back flat and bend at the hip.”
How To Do It
- Sit on the floor with your back straight and legs extended out in front of you.
- Engage your quads and flex your feet, aiming to lift your heels up off the floor.
- Slowly walk your hands forward on the outside of your legs towards your feet.
- Alternatively, grab a short towel and reach it around the bottoms of your feet and slowly pull yourself forward and down.
- Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Take a 1-minute break. Repeat 2 times.
Thighs, quads, hip flexors, and psoas (those frog-leg looking muscles that extend from your lower back to your hips). All are traditionally very tight on guys. All are targeted with this move. “This needs to be held longer than you’ll want — like for a minute,” says Gronholm. “And that minute will seem like a long time.”
How To Do It
- From a standing position, drop a knee to the floor, arch your back, and reach your arms up.
- Gradually bend your front knee towards a 90-degree angle. Lengthen your spine by lifting your torso off your waist while reaching your tailbone toward the floor. Hold for 1 minute.
Kneeling Hamstring Stretch
Because your hamstrings are stiffer than rebar. “The first time you do this it will feel okay,” says Gronholm. “But by the second or third time, you’ll start to see incremental progress. And once you see progress, you’ll feel taller.” (Note: You won’t actually be taller. That stopped in 9th grade.)
How To Do It
- While in the lunge position, straighten your front leg, flex your front foot, and fold over your extended leg.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Relax, then repeat 3-to-4 times.
Cow Face Pose
Guys carry a lot of shoulder stress from sitting, carrying, and slouching. “Opening them up does wonders,” says Gronhom. “And just feels great.”
How To Do It?
- Reach your left arm behind you, moving the back of your hand onto your spine.
- Reach your right arm up and bend at the elbow, moving the palm of your hand towards your spine.
- If it’s accessible, link your hands together; if not, bridge the distance by using a short towel held in both hands.
- Now, bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Stand up and release. Repeat on the other side.
Done regularly, this 6-stretch workout will help realign your body and reduce any aches and pains. So make time for it, because your kid’s not going to grow taller overnight. You’ve got years of stooping ahead.
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