Top Daily Stretches for Beginners

Fitness isn’t all about “feeling the burn” and increasing your heart rate and breathing. It’s essential to take a step back, get in touch with your body, check-in, and give your tight muscles some love. Regular stretching is the best way to do that.

If you’re new to stretching, the options can be overwhelming. Follow this simple daily stretching plan to help prevent injury, reduce stress, and reach your flexibility goals. 

Daily morning stretches

Set your alarm clock a few minutes early to incorporate stretching into your morning routine. Stretching in the morning helps release muscle stiffness, reduce pain, and encourage circulation. 

Rather than jumping into the day and exposing your body to harmful stressors with no warning, ease into wakefulness by gently moving and warming up your joints and muscles. 

These stretches will wake up your body, help you set a healthy, active intention for the day, and place you in a positive mindset before you’ve even had your morning coffee. 

Knees to chest

Do this simple stretch before you get out of bed to engage your core and lower back while stimulating digestion and gently stabilizing your pelvis. You can choose to do one leg at a time or both legs together.

How to do it:

  1. Lying on your back, pull your knees to your chest, wrapping your arms around the front of your shins or behind your knees to deepen the stretch. 
  2. Hold this for about 30 seconds and then release and repeat.

Supine twist 

Another stretch to do before you get up. This one feels great on the hips, glutes, and back. Twists are incredible stretches for detoxification and abdominal strengthening, and they can even benefit your organ function.

How to do it:

  1. Lie flat on your back and lift one knee, placing it over your other leg at an angle
  2. Stretch your arms out to the sides and look in the opposite direction of your top leg. You should feel a gentle twist in your spine. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing deeply into the twist. 
  4. Repeat on the other side. 
  5. Do this as many times as desired. 

Mountain pose

This is a perfect morning posture to get you focused for the day and bring light and energy into your body. It gives you a chance to find your center and improves your posture while opening your chest. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet together. Some people prefer to keep their feet shoulder-width apart. Do whatever feels best to you.
  2. Take a deep breath in, lifting the front of your feet up, bringing your toes off of the ground, and then fanning them out to form a solid base. 
  3. Engage your leg muscles, feeling your kneecaps lift up slightly. 
  4. Draw your navel towards your spine. 
  5. Let your shoulders fall away from your ears and hang your arms at your sides, opening your palms to face forward and pressing your shoulder blades together. 
  6. Draw the crown of your head up toward the ceiling, lengthening through your spine. 

Daily afternoon stretches

We’ve all experienced that dreaded afternoon slump. Full from lunch and looking forward to the end of the day, fatigue, distractedness, and brain fog usually kick in around 2:30 pm. To help combat this and reduce the negative effects of sitting at a desk, take a quick break to do these easy, effective stretches. 

Cat-cow

This dynamic stretch is a little faster than others and is an excellent afternoon pick-me-up. It targets multiple areas, including the neck, spine, core, quads, and hips, for an effective full-body movement.

How to do it:

  1. Get on your hands and knees, ensuring that your shoulders are above your wrists and your knees are under your hips. Your whole body should be straight and in line with a neutral spine.
  2. Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your chin towards your chest as you exhale and round your spine.
  3. Inhale, arching your back into a “U” shape and lifting your head towards the ceiling.
  4. Hold each pose for a few seconds and then transition. 
  5. Repeat ten times or as much as desired. 

Forward fold

If you’re part of the tight hamstring club, this stretch is for you. It helps improve blood flow to the brain (always helpful during that afternoon slump), releases pressure in your lower back, and wakes up your hamstrings.

How to do it:

  1. Stand up straight and tall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Reach your hands up towards the ceiling and then allow your body to hinge forward at the hips, releasing your head. Try to avoid bending from your back.
  3. Lower your upper body over your legs, reaching as far down as is comfortable. It might feel good to touch the ground, or you can grab behind your knees. If you need to bend your knees slightly, that is okay. 
  4. You can also try holding the opposite elbows and allowing yourself to sway gently from side to side. 
  5. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
  6. When you are ready to release, slowly roll up from the base of your spine, returning to your starting position.

Neck and shoulder rolls

Restoring movement to your neck will help reduce the tension and stiffness when you are hunched over a desk or typing on a computer. While this stretch can technically be done while you’re sitting down, use this as an opportunity to get up and walk around.

How to do it:

  1. Look straight ahead, and then draw your head in a slow circle to the left.
  2. Once you get back to the center, reverse directions. 
  3. When doing neck rolls, try to keep your shoulders down.
  4. After completing a neck to roll to both sides, shrug your shoulders in a big circle towards the back.
  5. Switch directions and repeat. 
  6. Do this sequence at least three times. 

Daily night stretches

It is easy to carry a lot of tension and stress throughout the day. Worries pile up and collect in your body, keeping you tossing and turning for hours as you struggle to fall asleep. Stretching and mediation have been proven to help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.

 Do these stretches once you are prepared to go to sleep so that you don’t have to get up again. You can stretch on the floor or in your bed. Try these three simple nighttime stretches to help you unwind and prep your mind and body for a restful night of uninterrupted sleep.

Reclining butterfly

This stretch target the hips and groin, opening up your lower body and helping to combat some of the tension in your lower back. The reclining butterfly is perfect for people who sit a lot for work.

How to do it: 

  1. Sit up straight and bring the soles of your feet together, letting your knees fall to the bed.
  2. Lie back, keeping your feet together and your knees apart. Pull your feet in as close to your inner thighs as comfortable.
  3. You will feel this stretch in your groin and inner thighs. 
  4. Feel free to use cushions under your knees or head for added support.
  5. Lightly push down on your knees with your hands, relaxing your thighs and releasing tension. 
  6. Stay in this pose for at least a minute or however long is comfortable.

Child’s pose

Sitting at a computer for long periods can create pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. This stretch can help you release this physical and mental stress and get you in touch with your center.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel on your bed or the floor with your knees hip-width apart and your feet together.
  2. Bend at the hips and reach your arms straight above your head, resting your forehead on the ground or the bed.
  3. Control your breathing, reaching the tip of your fingers slightly forward with every breath. 
  4. Hold for one minute.

Corpse pose (savasana)

You are likely familiar with the corpse pose if you practice yoga, as it is often used to close out a yoga class. This simple posture restores relaxation to your body and is a great way to unwind after a long day. Many people like to end their evening stretching routine with savasana, as it is easy to slip into sleep from this pose. 

How to do it:

  1. Lie flat on your back, with your legs straight in front of you and your arms along your sides, palms towards the ceiling.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Let your body relax, feeling your tongue falling away from the roof of your mouth and letting your jaw unclench.
  4. Breathe deeply, slowly releasing tension as you work your way down your body, intentionally relaxing each area. 
  5. Stay in this pose for five minutes, getting in sync with your breath and checking in with your body.

Tips for daily stretching

Never push to pain: Certain stretches should be slightly uncomfortable, especially when you’re pushing yourself. However, you should never push to the point of pain. You don’t want to tear or strain a muscle as that could set back your fitness and flexibility goals. 

Wear proper clothing: Organic activewear or loose-fitting clothing are great choices. You want to wear clothes you can move in that don’t restrict you. Those tight office slacks probably won’t allow you to get a full range of motion when stretching. 

Control your breathing: Though impromptu stretching throughout the day isn’t the same thing as an organized yoga practice, you can still utilize the power of breathing to help you go deeper into your stretches. Focus on your breath and allow your body to relax into the stretch and release tension from your muscles. 

Modify where you need to: Never let anyone tell you how to stretch. You know what your body needs and where you are holding tension and stress. Following a daily stretching routine can be a useful starting point, but feel free to modify it to your level or needs. 

Don’t rush: Stretching isn’t about how fast you can fly through different poses. The real benefit comes when you breathe through discomfort and allow yourself to find peace in the process. Hold those poses!

Next steps

The key to a vibrant life is creating mindful habits that become as natural to you as driving a car or riding a bike. Incorporating daily stretching into your routine allows you to check in with your body and gives you a chance to do something that supports your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. 

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Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD

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