I’m a Movement Specialist, and This Is the Best Stretch Based on Your Height

First things first: Everyone—and I do mean, everyone—needs to stretch. No matter how active you are, how flexible you feel, or how stiff your joints seem, consistently and effectively stretching your body is necessary for a long, healthy, and active life. Without doing so, you can experience aches, pains, and consistent tightness. However, the best stretches for you may not be the same as those for your best friend, who is a few inches shorter or taller.

Though it isn’t a big difference, yoga instructor and movement specialist at Yoga Wake Up, Emilie Perz says folks at different heights tend to get sorer in various spots. “The reality is that stretches are not one size fits all,” she explains. “To optimize your body’s flexibility, try exercises that are designed with height in mind to lengthen and open the most commonly tight areas of the body.” Keep scrolling for your guide to height-based stretching.

For those 5’5” and shorter

The most common height for women in America is 5'4", so we're guessing these stretches will apply to many of you. Those under 5’5” can put a strain on the upper body, like the neck and shoulders by straining or reaching excessively. Certain stretches, however, can give you a much-needed break and bring some relief to your back, neck, and calves, which can commonly find themselves sore if you're under 5'5".

Forward Fold

When you first hear your alarm clock sound, start your day with this stretch, recommended by Perz. She says this pose gently lengthens your entire body—from your upper and lower back to your hamstrings and calves.

How to do it:
1. Stand upright with your hands to the sides of your hips and your feet parallel.
2. Take a deep breath as you place your hands to your hips.
3. Then, Perz says to pull your belly in as you contract your front thigh muscles to engage your quadriceps.
4. As you forward fold, place your hands to the shins and hook your big toes with your pointer fingers. (If you can’t make it that far, reach as far as you can.) If you feel any tugging on your hamstrings, Perz says it’s fine to bend your legs.
5. Inhale to reach your chest forward and exhale to fold deeper.
6. Repeat three to five times, holding eight to 10 breaths each.

Low Lunge

When you’re shorter, you have a lower center of gravity and you could inadvertently put more pressure and weight on the lower half of your body. Perz says this variation on a traditional lunge will give a little stretch to your shoulders, stomach, thighs, and groin, and will open up your chest.

How to do it:
1. Start in the forward fold.
2. Now, Perz says to step one foot back into a lunge, and lower the knee down to the ground.
3. As you press through the feet, place your hands on top of your thigh to lift your torso up.
4. As you exhale, draw your belly in to lengthen your lower back. When you inhale, take your arms over your head, while reaching your fingertips to the ceiling.
5. Stay here, reaching up through your torso and arms. When you exhale again, sink deeper if you can.
6. Repeat three to five times, holding eight to 10 breaths each.
7. Switch to the other side.

Treat yourself to a full body stretch from a professional. Watch the video to learn more. 

For Those Between 5’6” and 5’10”

If you’re in this range, you’re part of the biggest group of American men, with a nationwide average of 5’9”. Perz says this means you’ll feel the common soreness in places like the lower back and tightness in your legs. You can probably do any stretch and feel better, but these are recommended by Perz.

Pyramid Pose

After a tough bootcamp that was packed with cardio and floor exercises, you may be feeling snug everywhere. This go-to pose will gently lengthen and stretch your side body and outer legs. Perz says over time, you’ll see increased flexibility in your upper and lower back, groin, hamstrings, and calves.

How to do it:
1. Start in a downward facing dog.
2. Step one foot directly in between both hands.
3. Now, hop the back foot in until the foot is fully supported and flat on the ground.
4. As you inhale, Perz says to lengthen your spine forward and lift up through the head and torso.
5. When you exhale, begin to straighten your front leg until you are upright, with your arms relaxed next to your body and you feet parallel.
6. Now, with an inhale, place your hands on your steps. Step (or jump!) three to four feet apart.
7. Rest your hands on your hips.
8. Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees.
9. Align your right heel with the left heel.
10. Lastly, firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so the center of the right knee cap is in line with the center of the right angle.
11. Repeat on the other side.

Half-Frog Pose

For something that’s a little more easy-peasy and calm, Perz suggests this amphibian-inspired movement. She calls it a gentle heart-opener and backbend that releases tension in the neck, shoulders, chest, and thighs. AKA: It's good all-around.

How to do it:

1. Lay down flat on your stomach.
2. Place your forearms directly in front of you, lining up your elbows underneath your shoulders.
3. As you inhale, press down strongly through your hands and forearms as you lift your chest and torso up as high as you can.
4. As you exhale, Perz says to draw your belly in to protect your lower back.
5. On your next inhale, spin your right hand in toward your left elbow to prop your chest up.
6. On your next exhale, reach your left arm back as you bend your left knee, and grab either the inside or outside of your ankle with your left hand.
7. Gently, draw the left heel bone directly toward the left buttock until you feel a stretch on the top of your left quadricep.
8. Keep your heart and chest elevated and each time you inhale, lengthen up through the crown of the head and chest.
9. Each time you exhale, slowly draw the heel down to lengthen the front of the leg.
10. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

For those 5’11” and taller

There are plenty of perks to being taller, but according to Perz, bodyweight distribution can create when you exercise for long periods, you may experience super-tight hips. Perz recommends these stretches for anyone who is 5’11 and beyond.

Downward Dog

You know it, you love it, and there's a reason why. Perz says this go-to yoga move gently stretches open the entire back body while strengthening the front. “It also releases and lengthens the shoulders, upper and lower back, hamstrings and calves while toning the abdominals,” she adds.

How to do it:
1. On the floor, come to your hands and knees. Your hands should be right under your shoulders, and your knees directly below your hips.
2. As you inhale, Perz says to press down firmly through your hands.
3. As you exhale, lift your knees off the ground and press your legs back.
4. Keep your arms straight, and press into your hands as you push your hips up and back as much as you can.
5. Mindfully, bend your knees if your low back feels sensitive.
6. On each inhale, Perz says to press down through your hands, and on each exhale, try to press your legs back to intensify the stretch.
7. Repeat three to five times, and hold the pose six to 10 breaths.

Bridge Pose

If your legs always feel sore, no matter what you do, they may need extra attention in your recovery routine. Being tall can cause more lower-body aches-and-pains, and your hips could be a source of discomfort. Perz says this helps.

How to do it:
1. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you.
2. As you inhale, bend at the knees and put your feet flat on the ground.
3. As you exhale, Perz says to pull your belly back and down, as you lengthen your tailbone to the back of your knees.
4. On your next inhale, press firmly through your arms and elevate your pelvis, lower back and upper back off the ground.
5. Interlace your hands underneath your back and wiggle your arms deeply underneath you. You should feel your shoulder blades connect on the upper back.
6. Now, press down through your shoulders, arms, hands and feet, and lift your body as high as you can.
7. As you exhale, let the front of the body fully relax.
8. Repeat three to five times and hold the pose for eight to 10 breaths.

Alright, so can stretching actually make you taller? We investigate. And if you're strapped for time, here are the easiest ways to sneak in stretches into any workout. 

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