September is the ideal time for longer walks in nature. The temperatures are mild and the air is fresh and laden with the heavier scent of turning leaves. But unless you are young and fit, a hike may leave you feeling tight in your back and legs. Instead of waiting to your next stretching or yoga class, why not pause in the middle of your walk to look after your hard-working muscles? Taking a break to stretch will allow you to continue the journey with more ease. You don’t need a yoga mat to stretch but can release tight muscles in a standing position. Indeed, outdoor stretching to ease tight muscles is a wonderful way to take in the scenery, breathe deeply and uplift the spirits. Here are a few easy suggestions of how to do it. I hope they can make your next walk even more enjoyable!
Tight leg muscles can stress the lower back. When the hamstrings or quadriceps pull on the pelvis, the alignment of the pelvis and the spine are affected, causing muscles to tighten and possibly hurt. So we start our outdoor stretching to ease tight muscles with the legs.
For the hamstrings, find a raise such as a bench, low wall or rock to place one foot on. Keep the raised leg straight if you can. Depending on the hamstring flexibility, you will either stay upright or need to bend forward to feel the right stretch. When bending forward to find more stretch in the hamstrings, make sure you bend from the hips and with a straight spine. Flex the foot for more stretch if you like. Breathe into the feeling of gentle releasing, as forcefully pulling on the muscles will be counter productive.
Stretching the quadriceps
To release tightness in the quadriceps, it may feel great to hold one ankle behind you. Hold on to something if balance is an issue. Once you hold your ankle, tuck the tailbone, both to increase the stretch and to keep the lower back safe. Breathe into the stretch.
If your knee does not allow you to hold the ankle behind you, place the top of your foot on a rock/bench behind you to get a similar position and stretch.
Rotating the spine
Interlace the fingers behind the head and rotate the spine gently from side to side: exhale to the side and inhale to the centre. If your sacroiliac joints hurt it is better to rotate from the waist upward. Otherwise, allow the hips to rotate as well. If you would like to find out more about the SI joints, check out this blog: https://beneyoga.co.uk/sacroiliac-joint-pain-how-yoga-can-help/
Lateral stretch for the spine
This lovely stretch will release the inner thigh muscles, called the sartorial muscles, as well as the whole side of the trunk and spine.
Find your rock, bench or low wall and place your right foot so it faces out to the side.
Exhale and bend your right knee, making sure the knee moves in the same direction as the right foot.
After a few movements just bending the leg, add the left arm for a few more repetitions. Inhale this time to move over to the right. Exhale to move back and lower the arm.
Coming back to your centre, interlace the fingers and stretch both arms up to the sky. Stay in this position and breathe deeply a few times. Breathe in and feel the abdomen and ribs expand. Breathe out all the way.
For back pain tips that are just right for you, why not try some one-to-one yoga therapy sessions? Set up a free consultation call to discuss how yoga therapy can help you: https://beneyoga.co.uk/book-a-free-consultation-call/.