Active Recovery

10 Stretching Routines To Erase a Year’s Worth of Aches and Pains

Erin Bunch

Photos: Stocksy/Milles Studio
In the Before Times, I went to hot yoga three times a week. Since the pandemic began, I’ve neglected my stretching routines and practiced yoga exactly once. My body can no longer contort into the type of bendy postures that offer my muscles sweet relief because its resting state is already twisted into a pretzel. A hard pretzel. In other words, it’s not just tied but frozen into all sorts of tight knots thanks not just to working from home, but to doing absolutely everything else there, too (except hot yoga).

But the other night, as I was hunched up over my laptop writing up an episode of Well+Good’s YouTube show, Good Moves, something compelled me to rise from my chair and stretch along with the video. It felt like a revelation. My body was actually singing afterward and as a professional writer, I do not have a body that sings. I have since been motivated to fit a daily stretch into my routine, usually sandwiched between the twelve-plus hours I spend at my desk and the *nevermind* number of hours I spend on my couch thereafter.

To help you find the inspiration to lengthen, lift, and—most importantly—unwind after a year of pandemic stress, here are 10 stretching routines that’ll prompt you to do just that.

The best stretching routines for people who work from home

1. 20-minute full-body stretch with East River Pilates’ instructor Floss Brolsma

 

If anyone is going to motivate me to move off my couch, it’s NYC-based East River Pilates’ instructor Floss Brolsma. This video offers a perfect mid-length routine to work in at least once a week so as to stretch out every inch of your busted little pandemic body.

2. 8-minute head, neck, and shoulder stretching routine with Sky Ting’s Chloe and Krissy

 

If you’re no longer sure you can swivel your head to the side without searing pain, this is the stretching routine for you. It offers a perfect interlude between Zoom calls, or whatever it is you’re subjected to in your role as a capitalist cog. (Pandemic. Burnout.)

3. 15-minute stretch and recovery with East River Pilates’ instructor Chloe Gregor

 

This stretching routine with Chloe Gregor makes for the perfect pre-bedtime release, though you could fit it into any break in your day. It’s especially well suited to being tacked on to the end of a workout since it’s specifically geared toward recovery and, as a neuroscientist recently told me, your brain requires a wind down after the cortisol spikes triggered by rigorous exercise.

4. 30-minute full-body deep stretch to improve flexibility with Bk Yoga Club’s Paris and Alicia

 

This is some intense magic for those looking to stretch with a goal, specifically that of improving flexibility. It’s a juicy full-on yoga flow, but one geared more towards lengthening than strengthening. And while it requires somewhat more effort than, say, the eight-minute stretch listed above, the end result will remind you of the massages you used to get in the Before Times—sans a bill.

5. Cool down stretch for runners with Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland

 

Specifically designed for runners, this routine will stretch your inner thighs, hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings after a jog. But you can do it after any workout, as those muscles need some TLC no matter what it is you’re doing with them. It works as recovery day filler, too.

6. 5-minute full-body stretch with trainer Charlee Atkins

 

I hate to eliminate your ability to make excuses for not stretching by giving you a video so short there’s literally no excuse available to you, but here we are. This is a super-quick full-body stretch that even the busiest of bees can fly through. And while Charlee Atkins utilizes a lacrosse ball here, if you, like me, have no real idea what lacrosse even is, you can sub in a tennis ball instead.

7. 8-minute full-body stretch with Ashley Joi

 

If you’re feeling ever-so-slightly more ambitious than the folks pressing play on the previous video, try this eight-minute routine instead. It moves from downward dog to alternating side lunges, standing side reaches, figure fours, and forward bends before concluding in cat-cows.

8. Upper body stretch with Ashley Joi

 

Ashley Joi offers another eight-minute stretch, but this one focuses specifically on the upper body. This is where many of us hold the bulk of our tension—they don’t call it “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders” for nothing.

9. 12-minute lower body stretch with Ashley Joi


Ashley Joi (and joy) is back here yet again with a reverse focus on your lower body. Even if you’re not working out all that much, if you’re sitting cross-legged as much as I am these days, this will feel absolutely scrumptious on your lower limbs.

10. 13-minute stretch for lower back pain with BK Yoga Club’s Alicia and Paris


It’s been virtually impossible to avoid lower back pain this year, what with the less-than-ergonomic “office” situations we’ve bootlegged for ourselves, coupled with endless hours spent binge-watching TV and, you know, wave after wave of “unprecedented” stress. This quick stretch won’t reverse all the damage done in one fell swoop, but it will do its part to ease your pain, especially when repeated over time.

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