Pain Free Working

Best Stretches to Relax Your Mind and Body

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, finding moments of tranquility can seem elusive. Amidst the chaos, incorporating stretches into our routine not only benefits our system but also holds the power to soothe the mind.

Stretching is not merely about physical flexibility; it can be a gateway to good fitness, mental relaxation, and inner peace.

Does Stretching Relax the Mind?

Absolutely. The body and mind are intricately linked, and tension in your system often correlates with stress and strain in the mind. Engaging in stretching exercises activates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering a relaxation response.

As muscles lengthen and loosen, they signal the brain to release endorphins, promoting a sense of calmness and reducing stress.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness, Brooke Paulson, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, emphasizes the benefits of stretching. It enhances your fitness, and flexibility, aids in injury prevention, and improves mobility. Moreover, it promotes increased blood flow to muscles, which can alleviate back pain and enhance posture.

Beyond physical health improvements, Brooke advocates daily stretching as a powerful method to reduce stress and promote mental relaxation.

This type of exercise aids in reconnecting with our breath. When combined with deep breathing, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, fostering relaxation and alleviating the stress response associated with “fight or flight.”

Prolonged sitting can lead to poor posture, causing soft tissues to adapt to a common seated position characterized by a forward head tilt, and rounded spine.

How Do You Stretch and Loosen up Your Body?

Various stretching techniques exist to loosen up the body, each targeting different muscle groups. This series of seven calming exercises, curated by Marianna DeCaro, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a certified fitness and yoga instructor and physical therapist at SPEAR Physical Therapy in New York City, offers a solution. 

According to DeCaro, these exercises work wonders in relieving tension. The sequence aims to gradually warm up the form, enhance flexibility, strengthen the core, and ease tightness in critical areas like the arms, pelvis, and back.

The following stretches serve as an excellent remedy for immediate tightness and anxiety relief, perfect for those moments when you need it urgently. Moreover, DeCaro highlights that it’s equally effective as a preventative measure against both mental and physical tension. As it’s gentle on your system, practicing this routine daily is perfectly acceptable.


The cat-cow pose can diminish the adverse effects of sitting all day and help relieve lower back pain. It increases the flexibility of your neck, shoulders, and spine and improves focus and coordination.

The Cat-Cow begins in a tabletop position, aligning your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. As you take a slow inhale, exhale gradually to round your spine, lowering your head towards the floor, and forming the Cat posture.

Inhale again, lifting your head, chest, and tailbone towards the ceiling, creating the Cow pose. Exhale deeply and bring your abdomen in, arching your spine and bringing your head and pelvis down like a “cat.”

Each round of this movement constitutes one repetition. Continue performing these repetitions for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds, experiencing a pull primarily in your spine and possibly feeling it in your glutes. For a deeper round in the Cat position, focus on pressing firmly into the floor with your hands and knees.

Forward Fold

Begin by standing with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart. Extend your lower limbs without locking your knees and allow your upper body to hang forward. Bring your chin towards your chest, loosen your shoulders, and lengthen your crown towards the ground to maintain a lengthy spine. 

Depending on your flexibility, your hands may touch the floor or hover above it. You can grasp each elbow with the opposite arm or let your upper limbs hang freely. You’ll notice a stretch in your back and hamstrings. Maintain this position for 30 to 60 seconds to experience its benefits.

Child’s Pose

Not only does this mind and body exercise help with back, thigh, and hip tension, but it also helps with blood circulation. This helps to calm your mind and reduce anxiety.

Kneel and sit on your knees. Lean forward, keeping your butt on your heels, and rest your forearms on the floor. This pose rests on the back and shoulders.

Seated Spinal Twist

The seated spinal twist lengthens the spinal extensor muscles to alleviate poor posture and chronic back pain.

Sit upright with feet flat on the ground. Place your left arm on your right knee and your right arm behind you, fingers on the ground facing away from your form. Inhale, raise your arms overhead, then exhale and twist to the right, placing your hands on the chair’s outside or your thigh.

Hold for five breaths. Inhale back to the center, switch crossed legs, exhale, and repeat on the left side.

Puppy Pose

Begin in a tabletop stance, aligning wrists under your shoulders and knees under your pelvis. Gradually extend your arms forward, lowering your chin toward the floor while keeping your buttocks lifted above your knees. Your arms should extend out in front with your armpits raised off the ground.

Experience a stretch across the front of your chest, in the armpits, and engage your core. Maintain this position for 30 to 60 seconds. If placing your chin on the ground causes discomfort, rest your forehead instead.

Lunging Hip-Flexor Stretch

Kneel on one knee and place the opposite foot flat in front of you, ensuring the front thigh is parallel to the ground and the ankle is under the knee. Maintain this position or intensify the stretch by leaning forward without extending your knee over your ankle. Engage your glutes to deepen the hip flexor exercise. 

For an added challenge, raise the arm on the same side as the grounded knee. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, alternating sides. Given the intensity, take breaks if needed during the exercise duration. To ease discomfort, place a towel or folded yoga mat under the kneeling knee for extra cushioning.

Downward Facing Dog 

Position yourself on all fours, aligning your hands under your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Extend your hands widely, emphasizing pressure on the mat with your index finger and thumb. Next, elevate your tailbone and lift your buttocks upward and backward, directing your hips toward the ceiling.

Extend your lower limbs as much as possible and softly encourage your heels toward the floor. Loosen your head between your arms, facing your knees, while pulling your shoulders back and down to maintain a flat back. 

Sensations of pulling may occur in your hamstrings, calves, or back. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds. To ease pain in the lower back, bend your knees; keeping them straight will focus on enhancing hamstring and glute mobility.

What Exercise Relaxes Your Body and Mind?

Yoga stands out as a holistic practice that combines movement, breath, and mindfulness. Asanas or yoga poses like the downward dog, pigeon pose, and seated forward fold provide deep stretches that release tightness in your system while encouraging mental clarity and relaxation.

How Do You Release Tightness From Your Body?

Mindful relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, where you systematically tense and then release each muscle group, can effectively alleviate tension. Additionally, techniques such as guided imagery, meditation, and even regular massages can aid in relieving physical and mental strain.

What Deeper Stretch Can You Do for Your Right and Left Leg?

For a deeper stretch, target the right and left legs separately:

Supine Hamstring Stretch

The Supine Hamstring Stretch is crucial for addressing tight hamstrings that contribute to poor posture. Such posture issues can lead to discomfort in the back. If you face frequent lower back problems, it’s recommended to perform this daily. 

To execute it, lie on your back either on the floor or a table, extending both legs outward. Utilize a towel or strap around the midpoint of one foot. Gradually pull on the strap to draw your leg towards your chest, ensuring it remains parallel to the ceiling. Maintain this position for 20 to 30 seconds before you repeat the process with the other leg.

Seated Lateral Flexion

The Seated Lateral Flexion stretch elongates the latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior muscles while expanding the chest. 

Start by sitting upright with feet planted firmly on the ground, maintaining a neutral spine. Interlock your hands behind your head, allowing the chest to open while holding this position for three breaths. As you exhale, initiate lateral spine flexion to the left side, envisioning the left rib cage moving closer to the hip bone.

Hold this for five deep breaths, then return to the center and repeat the movement on the opposite side.

Pigeon Pose

From a kneeling position, transition to a Downward Facing Dog, extending your right leg high behind you. Bring the right leg underneath your form, placing it in front with the shin parallel to the top of your mat. Ensure your foot isn’t creating an L-shape; position it as close to your hips as comfortable. 

Extend the left leg long behind you, resting the top of your foot on the mat. Keep the right foot flexed and aim for a neutral pelvis, maintaining the left hip close to the mat. Adjust the right foot if the left hip lifts. Experience the pull in your right hip for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Kneeling Hip Flexor

The Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch is particularly beneficial for those experiencing tightness from prolonged sitting, be it at work or home. This effectively alleviates knee and back pain associated with such tight hip flexors. 

To perform it, start by kneeling on one leg, while the other leg is positioned forward at a 90-degree angle. With your hands resting on your hips, maintain a straight back as you gently shift your hips forward until you feel the stretch. Perform this on both sides, holding the position for 30 to 45 seconds each time.

Side Neck Stretch

This is a beneficial exercise that eases jaw tension and elongates the side of the neck, front deltoid, and chest muscles.

To perform this stretch, begin by gently tilting your left ear toward the shoulder. Place the top of your right hand on the lower part of your back, and roll your right shoulder down and away from the ear.

Apply slight pressure with your left hand on your crown, lifting the chin slightly and maintaining an open jaw. Hold this position for five deep breaths, then release and switch to the opposite side for the same duration.

Knee to Chest Stretch

The Knee to Chest Stretch stands out as an incredibly advantageous exercise, effectively reducing back discomfort while enhancing flexibility in the hips, knees, and back. 

To do it, lie down on the floor or a table with both legs extended. Bring one knee toward your chest using your hands and allow your arms to gently pull it closer. Maintain this position for 20 to 30 seconds before releasing and repeat the stretch with the other leg.

90/90 Stretch

The 90/90 Stretch is beneficial for anyone seeking relief from tight hips and back discomfort. It is important to maintain a straight back while you lean forward during this stretch. To perform, sit on the floor and bend one leg in front of your form, rotating your hip outward, with your lower leg and knee resting on the ground at a 90-degree angle. 

Position your other leg beside you, rotating the hip inward, and rest your shin and ankle on the ground at a 90-degree angle. Ensure that the back of your patella aligns with your hip, and keep your ankle in a neutral position. Focus on maintaining a straight back without bending to either side. Hold this stretch for up to one minute to maximize its benefits.

Final Note

Incorporating these stretches into your daily routine, even for a few minutes, can make a remarkable difference in how you feel physically and mentally. Remember, the key lies not just in the stretch itself, but in the mindfulness and intention you bring to each movement, allowing you to achieve a state of profound relaxation and harmony between body and mind.

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.