I am so lucky to know South Florida’s leading massage therapist, Alexandra Paroulek-Bergbauer. Not only is she knowledgable beyond her years and a true self-care guru, but she is also one of the kindest humans you could meet. What I love most about Alexandra is that she deeply cares about her community and client’s needs, now more than ever, and as a new mother, she knows first-hand the importance of self-care for parents and women.
I asked Alex to do a guest post and I’m thrilled she agreed. I’m honored to share her brilliance with you all. Enjoy!
We have all been told “you need to stretch more” by our healthcare practitioners, personal trainers, and even family and friends. We know we need to do it and we think about getting around to it, but as the day slips by, the perfect time for therapeutic stretching just never seems to come. During these unprecedented times, our normal routines have, for the most part, come to a halt. Maybe you have found a lot more extra time in your day. Maybe you have been able to exercise more and plan out days for self-care. But even if you have not, now is your chance to make an effort to look after yourself.
Stretching is an important part of self-care that does not need to be done only after workouts. Benefits of daily stretching include better mobility, strength, muscle tension release, mood uplift, and possibly emotional release. On the days in between exercise, massage, and/or chiropractic adjustments you can prolong the benefits of those activities by setting aside time to stretch. You may already know some basic stretches and may do them here and there, but let’s focus on areas of the body that don’t get stretched enough.
All stretches can be done 1-2x a day, using just a doorway.
This stretch is a MUST if you sit in front of a computer. Sitting with your back rounded will contract your chest muscles, and being in this position for hours every day will keep your chest tight.
Bend your elbows to form a goal post and grab onto the doorway, pressing your elbows into the frame. Lean forward until you feel a stretch across your chest and hold for 5 deep breaths.
Yes, you have muscles on your sides that can get tight too, namely the obliques and latissimus dorsi that wrap around from the abdomen and back, respectively. Stretching them out will feel amazing!
Grab onto one side of the doorway with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart, take 2 steps back and lean your hips opposite of where your hands are placed. Hold here for 3 deep breaths and repeat for the other side.
Abs and Back
This is such a nice combo. Stretching out the abs will also help alleviate tension in your low back and hips.
Stand in the middle of the doorway and grab onto one side of the frame with both hands at chest height. Keeping your arms and chest facing that side, twist and rotate your hips to the opposite side and hold for 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
For another stretch that adds the hips: Stand in the center of the doorway and hold on for balance as you lift your left knee to hip height and grab onto it with your right hand. Pull the knee towards the right until you feel a stretch across your hip and torso. You can extend the twist by looking over your left shoulder, and hold for 3 deep breaths. Repeat for the other side.
The psoas is a deep abdominal muscle that is hard to feel for but is the culprit in most cases of back pain. It is located on the lower lumbar region of the spine and runs down through the pelvis to the femur; therefore it helps flex your hips as you walk and when you sit. Again, if you sit for hours a day, this one is going to feel tight but you will feel better once you release tension off it.
Kneel down inside the doorway facing one side and lift your left leg to plant your left foot on the ground at the bottom corner of that side. Place your right knee to the back on the bottom corner of the other side of the doorway and rest your right shin on the side of the frame with toes pointed up towards the ceiling. Rest your left hand on your left knee and place your right hand as high as you can on the doorway to create a straight line from hand to knee. Lean forward to feel the stretch in your hip, shoulder, and entire right side of your body, and hold for 3 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side. It may feel intense if you rarely stretch your psoas, so go slow with it. You may also use a towel or pillow under your knee if the floor is too uncomfortable.
Hamstrings and calves
Tight legs and Restless Leg Syndrome will benefit from this stretch, plus you can take a load off and lie down for a bit to rest.
Lie down and place your butt as close as possible to the left side of the doorway and lift your left leg straight up to rest on the frame while your right leg stretches out straight on the floor. Relax your arms by your sides and keep both legs straight during this stretch. Flex your foot towards you so your sole is facing the ceiling to feel the stretch in the calf as well. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
As a massage therapist, I can’t stress enough how important self-care is for each of us. Try to do all or some of these stretches daily – even if you want to focus on one tight spot. Take time out for yourself and always remember that you are worth it!
Alexandra Paroulek-Bergbauer LMT