I’ve incorporated an evening stretching routine every night before bed for almost three years and my body thanks me every morning.
I don’t think anyone is really immune to minor aches and pains. I know I’m not. And neither is my husband.
I have suffered from back spasms on and off for the past eight years. I’ve gone to doctors, therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists. I definitely experienced benefits from all of them but none of them ultimately cured me of my back spasms.
A bit of background: I work out 6 days a week, eat relatively healthy, am in the normal weight range for my age and height, and don’t have any overarching medical conditions. With all of that being said, I still struggle with back spasms.
A few years ago my chiropractor gave me a list of stretches to help open up my hip flexors, which she thought would ease my spasms. And while it didn’t really do that, I definitely started to notice other benefits.
Subtle Changes Your Body Will Notice When You Start a Regular Evening Stretching Routine
1. Less Tightness
The first thing I noticed when I started to regularly stretch before bed was that I woke up with much less tightness throughout my body, especially my lower back. At the time, I was only focusing on stretches that would benefit my back.
As I started to expand my stretching routine to incorporate my full body, I noticed that other parts of my body weren’t tight when I woke. And the effects were lasting later and later into the day.
After my back, I would say that my neck was the next more noticeable change.
2. Decrease in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
I also began to notice that my post-workout soreness wasn’t as intense. This is attributed to how stretching improves circulation which increases blood flow to your muscles.
I regularly have DOMS throughout my body as I focus on different muscle groups every day. This means I am constantly recovering in one part of my body or another depending on the recovery period.
Once I started to incorporate evening stretching my DOMS significantly decreased. It was most apparent in my legs after leg day – especially my tight hamstrings.
I still experience delayed onset muscle soreness, but not as intensely or for as long as I used to.
3. Sleep Quality
I have never really struggled with my sleep quality. I can say that I typically sleep through the night, especially if I stop drinking water at least two hours before I go to bed.
What did change once I started stretching was that I no longer had to toss and turn to get comfortable due to a tight back or neck. Prior to my evening stretching routine, if I stayed in one position for too long I would tighten up and then have to roll over or reposition myself throughout the night to get comfortable again.
Ultimately, this was a disruption to my sleep. Even though I wasn’t getting out of bed, I was still waking up which in turn was affecting my sleep cycle.
4. Ease of Falling Asleep and Mental Release
This result was the most unexpected and something I wasn’t even looking for. But stretching certainly calms my mind. While I stretch I focus on my breathing and the day seems just to melt away.
It clears my head and prepares my mind to relax and get ready to sleep. Now when I get into bed I close my eyes and I’m out. I used to lay in bed and think about the day or my to-do list for the next day.
Instead, I’m able to simply fall asleep because I’ve already gotten myself into a relaxed state while stretching.
It’s a wonderful feeling not having my mind jumbled and firing on all cylinders as I try to fall asleep.
5. Mobility Throughout the Day
The final major difference that I noticed was my mobility throughout my day. I have much more flexibility and I am just more comfortable in my body.
I don’t get as tight in my hips when driving for long periods of time – it used to be that when I was in the car for over 30 minutes my hips and lower back would start to ache.
The same goes for sitting at a desk for long periods of time for work. I’m no longer constantly repositioning myself for comfort, or twisting around to release tension in my back.
Some of my favorite changes are that I can easily play backyard games with my nieces, have much more stability on my stand-up paddle board, and I’m able to lay my hands flat on the ground. Before starting with my evening stretching routine I could only reach just below my knees.
Stretches To Incorporate Into Your Evening Stretching Routine
Below are a few of my favorite stretches to start off your evening stretch routine. I typically take about 20 minutes to stretch before bed. Some nights it may only be a few minutes if I’m really tired, or I can stretch for upwards of 45 minutes if I’m feeling really tight. It really depends on how I’m feeling.
When I first started I did the same stretches every night. My main goal was to loosen my hip flexor to reduce my back pain, so all of my stretches were for that. Now I do a full body stretch. And I do moves that I feel my body needs at the moment.
For example, if my neck is tight I will do neck rolls and side-to-side stretches. I may also focus on some shoulder flexibility that will help loosen my upper traps.
Here are a few of my go-to’s that I do every night (even when I only stretch for a few minutes):
1. Back Twists
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, twist from side to side. Lead with your elbows that are bent at chest height. As you twist to the right, your left leg turns in, as well as your foot, and lift up onto your toes with your left foot. Repeat the same on the opposite side and go back and forth.
Position yourself on your hands and knees so that your hands are under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Cat is when you flex your spine by pushing away from the ground and creating space between your discs. The tops of your feet should be on the floor. Tuck your tailbone, engage your core by bringing your belly button to your spine and drop your head forward gazing toward your stomach.
Cow is when you tuck your toes, arch your back – extending it, and tilt your pelvis up. Again you will be engaging your core as you did in cat pose, but this time lift your head up, without over-extending your neck.
3. Child’s Pose
In a kneeling position, bring your toes together and spread your knees. Stretch your body forward, over your thighs with your arms extended in front of you. Drop your head to hover over the floor or on to rest on the floor.
In this position, I like to press each finger into the mat separately and feel the stretch through different muscles in my upper back.
4. Bird Dog
Starting in the same position as cat-cow, on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips, extend your opposite arm and leg. Keep your core engaged with your belly button pulling into your spine. Your lifted foot should be flexed and push into your heel and fingers of your opposite hand.
The goal of this stretch isn’t height, or how high you can lift your arm and leg. The goal is extension through the extended limbs.
5. World’s Favorite Stretch
This is a more complex move, but totally worth it. From a standing position lunge your right leg back and place your hands on the floor inside of your left foot. Lift your left hand to extend that arm above your head as you twist towards your left bent knee.
When you bring your hand back to the floor bring it to the outside of your left foot. Straighten both legs with your feet remaining where they are. Bend your knees and step your right foot next to your left foot and stand up, back to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Again, these are just a few of my go-to stretches. Choose stretches that work for you and incorporate a stretching routine into your evening. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Stretching is also a great thing to add to your morning routine – check this article out for more information on creating a morning routine.
Tell me in the comments below what’s included in your evening stretching routine!