To get a massage every week sounds great — if we could only afford it. Fortunately, there are stretches you can do at home to loosen up all your tight muscles and feel as good as if you’d had an actual full body massage. When you do these stretches to target your hips, neck, shoulders and more, “be quirky and intuitive,” says Wil Lewis, a New York City-based massage therapist. “Every body is different. Move your body in subtle ways within each stretch intuitively to catch the angles and corners of your body that need it most.”
1 BACK OF THE NECK
Standing or sitting, let your head fall forward toward your chest. Interlace your fingers behind your neck. While counting down from 20, try to lift your head while you pull your neck toward the floor with your hands. When you reach zero, let go. “Your neck will feel longer and your posture will be improved,” Lewis says.
2 SIDE OF THE NECK
Target your levator scapulae muscles (the ones on the side of your neck). Let your right ear fall toward your right shoulder. Take your right index finger and push your chin back until you have a double chin. Lean into the stretch until it feels good, allowing the stretch to expand naturally for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on each side.
3 SPLENIUS CAPITIS AND CERVICIS
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These muscles hug the back of the neck close to the vertebrae and can cause headaches. “This stretch looks weird, but it feels great!”. Point your nose toward your right armpit, place your right hand on the back of your head and let the natural weight of your arm draw your nose downward. You should feel this along the back of the neck on the left side. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, allowing the tension to melt and the stretch to increase. Switch sides and repeat.
4 BACK OF THE SHOULDERS
This stretch is good for the back of your shoulders, including the rhomboids and trapezius muscles, Lewis says. Interlace you fingers at your lower back so your palms face to the back. Draw your elbows together toward the front of your body while you round your spine. Lean forward into the stretch until it feels good, allowing it to expand naturally for 30 to 60 seconds.
5 UPPER AND MIDDLE BACK
“This exercise helps offset the negative effects of poor posture from sitting all day,” says Steve Sudell. Start by standing with your legs wide. Bend forward and place your hands on the ground. Place your right hand behind your head. Leading with your elbow, rotate your chest toward the ceiling as high as possible. Rotate back to start, trying to touch your left arm with your right elbow. Do 10 repetitions on both sides.
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Stand and stretch your arms straight out to the sides as far as you can with your palms facing forward and fingers spread apart. Keeping your hands in this position, reach your arms behind you. For a deeper stretch, bend your wrists back until your hands start to slightly tingle. To go even deeper, bend your wrists more and lean your head back, looking up toward the ceiling. Hold for as long as 60 seconds.
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This stretch hits your spine, hip flexors and iliotibial band. Lie face up with your arms out to the sides so your body forms a T shape. Try to bring your right foot to your left hand. Pause, then switch legs. Do five reps with each leg, trying to get closer to your hand each time. Then turn over onto your stomach. Do the same movement, trying to bring your foot to the opposite hand and pausing. Do five repetitions with each leg.
8 BACK OF THE HIPS
Lie face up with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your right ankle on your left knee. Interlace your fingers around your left thigh and draw the thigh toward your chest. If you need more of a stretch, Lewis says to draw your right knee and right ankle toward your right shoulder. To bring the stretch closer to the muscles along your tailbone, you can draw your right knee to your left shoulder. Regardless of how you do it, lean into the stretch until it feels good, allowing the stretch to deepen naturally for 30 to 60 seconds.