Seated forward bend
Technique: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Hook a yoga strap or towel around the bottoms of your feet, and leave it there for now. Inhale and reach your arms up to the ceiling. Exhale and begin to bend forward gently by hinging at the hips, and bring your belly down to your thighs. Grasp the yoga strap or towel, keeping your back straight. “You want to lengthen the spine and keep your neck in line with your body,” says Eva Redpath, a personal trainer and the founder of Body Conditioning by Dancers in Toronto. Take another breath and, as you exhale, see if you can bring your upper body even closer to your legs. Hold for between 30 seconds and three minutes. Go as far as you comfortably can, and build from there each time you do it. “Stretch until you feel mild tension, nothing strenuous or painful. Over time, as you practise this stretch, you’ll be able to go down farther.”
Spinal trunk rotation
Technique: Lie on your back and bring knees up toward your chest so your body is positioned as if you’re sitting in a chair. Your knees and hips should be bent at 90-degree angles. Now, place the palms of your hands flat on the floor. “Take a deep breath and slowly exhale as you count down from four and bring your knees down to the right side,” says Mark Crocker, owner of In Your Element Personal Fitness and Rehabilitation in St. John’s. Lift your left hip up but keep your shoulders touching the floor. “Always take it slow. If you do it fast, you defeat the purpose of the stretch.” Try to keep your knees together and tip them over as far as you can, while keeping your hands on the floor. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Return to start and repeat, dropping knees to the left this time. Do this stretch daily, once on each side.
Technique: Stand against a wall so your tailbone, shoulder blades and head are all pressed against the wall. Hold your hands at shoulder level with your elbows bent at 45 degrees, and palms facing forward. Slowly extend your arms up the wall, pointing your hands as far up as they’ll go, not moving your tailbone, shoulder blades or head, and keeping them pressed against the wall. “Be slow and controlled, and try to reach as high as you can,” says Scott Tate, a Toronto-based certified kinesiologist and spokesperson for the Ontario Kinesiology Association. Return to the starting position slowly. You should take about five to 10 seconds to reach up, and another five to 10 seconds to bring your arms back down. Repeat from eight to 12 times (if you have shoulder issues, try three to five times). “It’s surprising how challenging it can be,” he says. You’ll feel the stretch across your chest and shoulders, and up your back.