Are you tied to a computer most working days? If so, there's a good chance you struggle with tight hamstrings, hunched shoulders and a tight back. Sara Haley, a pre- and postnatal exercise specialist in Santa Monica and creator of the "Expecting More" DVD workout series for pregnant women, says she has just the stretch for you.
She calls it the "Mama squat and reach," and it works equally well for pregnant women or desk jockeys. (Haley was five months pregnant at the time of this photo shoot. She has since given birth to a baby boy.)
What it does
The "squat and reach" is a two-part flexibility and mobility exercise that opens up the hips, hamstrings, chest and back. It's a gentle all-over stretch. "It's great for anyone, especially if you're sitting at a desk all day," Haley said. "It's going to feel amazing."
What to do
Stand behind a sturdy chair placed on a mat or carpet — someplace where the chair won't slide away from you. Take a comfortable, wide-legged stance with your toes positioned outward. Hold on to the chair, shoulders stacked over your hips, and sink gently into a sumo squat position. Make sure your knees do not extend beyond your toes. The chair is there for support and balance: Use it to go deeper into the stretch and then return to the standing position. Breathe freely and deeply throughout the movement.
Once you return to a standing position, take a step away from the chair and reposition your toes so they face forward. As you hold on to the chair, bend at the waist. Go as deep as feels comfortable while you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, lower back and upper body. "Your goal is to get a nice flat back.... You'll feel your chest start to open up," Haley said.
For more stretch across the chest, tip the chair gently forward for a few moments before slowly returning to a standing position.
Repeat the combination four to six times each day, or whenever you need a break, Haley says. You'll find that your movements become smoother and deeper with each stretch as your muscles warm up. You'll find your range of motion will improve over time.