Being in alignment and stretching go hand in hand in improving the function of the body. Atlas alignment strengthens the nervous system, and when this is functioning properly, your body will begin to heal and restore the joints and tissues.
Your degree of flexibility and mobility is determined more by your nervous system than physiological limitations. The nervous system causes muscles used in the movement to contract to stop you from moving further to prevent injury, and safely return to your original position. When stretching, you should reach a point of slight discomfort, but no pain. Also, when stretching one part of the body you should not feel pain in other parts of the body.
With the body in alignment, the nervous system functions properly and creates a better range of motion and overall body function. The stretching exercises below will help increase flexibility and strength to hold your alignment longer and allow the body to heal.
Start by sitting in an upright position, keeping head and neck neutral. Using two fingers, gently glide your chin back as you retract toward your neck. Do NOT throw your head backward. You should feel a stretch along the back of the neck, but no strain. Hold for 3 seconds and then return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.
Start by standing tall with arms out to the sides at shoulder length with palms facing forward and thumbs up. Make small circles with your arms by rotating your arms back in a circular motion and returning back to the start position. Circle arms 10 times.
To reverse, stand with arms out to the sides at shoulder length with palms facing back and thumbs down. Make small circles with your arms by rotating your arms forward in a circular motion back to the start position. Circle arms 10 times.
Repeat this series 2-3 times.
Start on the floor on all fours, knees hip-width apart directly under the hips, and hands shoulder-width apart directly under the shoulders. Move into a cat pose by slowly rounding the spine and tucking the hips under into a C curve. As you do this take a deep breath in.
Keep shoulders relaxed and out of your ears. On the exhale breath, move into a cow pose by dropping the lower spine and pushing the hips back and opening the chest. Do NOT throw your neck back. Repeat this breathing sequence and stretch 10 times.
SEATED LEG STRETCH
While sitting on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you and feet flexed, sit up tall with shoulders relaxed. Reach arms out in front of you while bending at the waist to your toes. You will feel this stretch in the back of your hamstrings and lower back.
Go as far as you can without pain. Some of you may not be able to touch your toes, and that is okay. Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds and breathe. Do not force the stretch by tensing shoulders up to the ears.
While remaining seated, stretch legs apart out in front of you at a 45-degree angle creating a “v”. Bend the right leg in with the foot touching the inner left knee and/or thigh. Reach arms out in front of you over the straight left leg, bending at the waist to your toes. You will feel this stretch in the hamstrings, inner thigh of the straight leg, the lower back, and hip of the right bent leg. Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds and breathe. Again, do not force the stretch causing pain or tension in the shoulders. Repeat on the other side.
Lay on the floor on your back with knees up, hip-width distance apart. Start by crossing over the left leg slightly above the ankle over the right leg slightly below the knee creating a 90-degree angle. Reach both hands behind the right knee, one going through the center of your legs and one on the outside of the right leg.
Gently pull the right leg up toward your chest. The low back should be relaxed into the floor, and you should feel the stretch along the left hip. When you feel the stretch in the glute/hip of the crossed leg, hold this position and breathe for 15-20 seconds. You should not feel pain, if so, back out of the stretch slightly.
Repeat these steps with the right leg crossing over the left.