These strong and dynamic stretches are designed to extend your limbs away from the centre of your body whilsts stretching your spine. These stretching exercises will loosen the hip joints and tone your leg muscles at the same time, and so they are particularly useful and beneficial for athletic people, especially runners. Such invigorating stretches need stability, so you should aim to have your feet firmly placed on the floor with a strong stance. Your spine will lift as you stretch your arms out, and as your chest expands, your breath will deepen. At the start, you will probably only be able to hold the stretch comfortably for a short period of time, but your stamina will increase with continued practice.
If you notice a stiffness in your hips and, you should practise the ‘less stretch’ positions until a time when you feel more able to attempt and cope with the fuller ‘more stretch’positions.
1. Stand tall and straight. With your feet together. Press your feet firmly into the floor. Pull up from your arches and stretch up through your legs and along the curves of your spine. Keep your shoulders down and your facial muscles completely relaxed.
2. Take your feet wide apart (1.3m or 4-1/2ft). Keep the upward stretch in your spine and extend your arms at shoulder level. Stretch away from your trunk into your fingertips, the palms of your hands facing the floor.
3. Turn your right foot slightly in and your left leg out, aligning your left heel with the arch of your right foot. Turn your head to the left and keep the stretch wide and strong. Focus your eyes beyond your fingertips and keep your shoulders relaxed.
4. Breathing out, bend your left knee and take your hips down. Your left thigh should be parallel to the floor with a right angle at the knee. Keep your right leg straight and stretch out strongly from the centre. Hold for up to 30 seconds, come up breathing in, and’ repeat on the other side.
Stretching: Wide and Strong – Less Stretch
With age the shoulder joints stiffen, making it hard to extend the body as a whole: the stretches on this page help keep them flexible, while the upward stretch of the arms lifts the spine.
Take your feet wide apart, with your toes pointing forwards and the arches of your feet lifted up. Turn your thighs outwards, knees straight. Stretch your arms out strongly from your spine into your fingertips. You will feel your breathing deepen as your chest expands. Hold for a few seconds.
Stretch your arms out as your arms straight up above our palms facing each other. Keep the outsides of your feet firmly on the floor. Take a few deep breaths, stretching up each time you breathe out. Then take your arms down.
Stretching: Wide and Strong – More Stretch
These advanced stretches-require strong back muscles and flexible hips and shoulders. You may find it difficult to balance in the second stretch; if so practise the first position only until you gain confidence. You will then feel able to balance securely on one leg.
Stand with your feet wide apart. Pointing your right foot in and your left leg out, turn completely to the left and stretch your arms up over your head, with your palms facing each other. Lift your back ribs as you stretch into your fingertips. Breathing out. Bend your left knee and lower your hips until your left leg makes a right angle at the knee. Breathe normally for up to 20 seconds; then breathe in, come up and repeat on the other side.
1. Carry on from the last stretch by lifting your rack heel, tucking in your tailbone and stretching forwards along your front thigh. Keep your hips well down so that your lower back extends.
2. Breathe in and reach forwards. As you lift your back foot, breathe out and straighten your left leg. Keep your arms and wrists firmly stretched as you extend your body. There should be a straight line from the fingertips to the heel. Hold for a few seconds, come down and repeat on the other side.