By Bailee Meier, Chiropractic Intern
Nothing feels better than that morning yawn and stretch right after rolling out of bed. Why is that? Well, after a (hopefully) restful night of sleep, your body is preparing itself for the long day ahead with an influx of oxygen and some movement for your muscles.
Yawning, while so common, hasn’t been heavily studied, but is believed to represent the body’s way of waking up or cooling down the brain. A nice long morning yawn can be seen as a wake up call. Not only does this wake up our brain, but it gives our lungs that first big stretch of the day. Which brings us to the topic of breathing.
Breathing is so simple and mindless, yet done wrong by so many of us. A proper breathing technique is extremely important for our overall well-being and is often overlooked. This is why I chose to take ya’ll back to the basics and start off this morning mobility routine with some structured diaphragmatic breathing.
What is diaphragmatic breathing? Diaphragmatic breathing or also known as belly breathing is when you actively engage your diaphragm and abdominal musculature in order to reach a greater fill of the lungs. When belly breathing, one should see 360 degrees of expansion in the abdomen and limited motion in the chest and shoulders. So, let's practice and connect with our breath.
While lying on your back in your cozy warm bed, place one hand over your chest and the other slightly below your belly button. Take a full breath in through your nose up to a count of five or whatever feels the best for you. Direct your focus towards filling your abdomen. Exhale out through your mouth by contracting your abdomen and letting your stomach sink into your bed.
- Inhale for 5 seconds
- Exhale for 5 seconds
** For an added challenge, place your lower hand between your back and bed. With each inhale attempt to push your hand down into your mattress. This ensures you’re obtaining a full 360 degrees of expansion. **
Now that we have a handle on our breathing, let's work on giving those muscles and our spine a little extra motion and TLC before we take on the day. Feeling a bit stiff when the sun comes up is normal, as our body rests fairly motionless at night, often in unfavorable positions due to the bed hogs (partner, pets, kids) in our lives. Naturally, when we wake up we feel the need to move and stretch, so why not take it a bit further to set your day up for success. This routine is simple and includes low-impact movements that will warm up your body, improve blood flow, and get you ready for whatever your day throws at you. Listed below is a good example of a morning mobility routine to help loosen up those joints and engage your spine!
Cervical Spine Mobility
While seated on the edge of your bed, rotate your head slowly clockwise (imagine drawing a large circle on your ceiling) five times then switch it up and repeat the same movement counter-clockwise for five more repetitions.
Staying seated, work on drawing your head back over your shoulders as if you are trying to create the world's largest double chin. You should feel this working the muscles in the front of your neck while stretching those in the back. Who doesn’t love a two for one? Continue to repeat this movement ten times.
Thoracic Spine Mobility
Now on all fours, set your shoulders over your hands and hips over knees and maintain a neutral spine. To begin, round your spine towards the ceiling and imagine pulling your belly button towards your spine as you tuck your chin to your chest. Now, let your belly drop to the floor as you arch your back and lift your head up towards the ceiling. Repeat these motions ten times.
Thread the needle
Again, beginning on all fours, keep one hand firmly planted on the bed as you lift the opposite hand slightly off of the bed. From here, keep the elbow locked as you begin to point it towards the ceiling, as if it were the hands on the clock, slowly rotating counterclockwise beginning at 6 and ending at 12. As your arm moves, follow your hand with your gaze, allowing your chest to open up to the side. Now slowly bring the raised arm down, and through the loop made by your opposite arm and leg as if “threading the needle”. Continue to slide this arm through the loop until you feel a stretch in the middle of your back. Let your supporting hand slide up the bed to allow yourself to sink deeper into the stretch. Now switch arms and repeat these steps five times per side.
Lumbar Spine Mobility
Quadruped Rock Back
Keeping shoulders over hands and hips over knees while maintaining a neutral spine throughout the entirety of this motion, slowly rock back and touch your glutes to your heels as you tuck your chin to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds as you feel a good stretch. Repeat five times.
Relax and flip to your back as you begin this motion by bringing both knees up to a 90 degree angle. Let your arms fall out to form the shape of a “T”. Now, slowly drop your legs to each side as you maintain a tight core. You should feel a nice stretch in your low back. Perform five times per side.
Wow, what a stretch. Starting off your morning with some breath work and stretching is a great way to center yourself and get those joints and muscles moving right. Too often our alarm goes off, we snooze it one too many times, then off to the races we go. Tomorrow morning take a few extra minutes to give this routine a try and take your morning slow. Your mind and body will thank you.
Bailee Meier is a chiropractic student from Palmer College in Davenport, Iowa, completing her internship at Washington Park Chiropractic. Her mission is to spread the good word of chiropractic care as she empowers her patients to live their best lives.