Everyone Should Do The Gymnast Morning Stretch

Gymnastics and flexibility are inextricably linked. You can’t do a full split or a full twisting layout if your hips and hammies are tight, which is why Olivia Karas, a former NCAA D1 women’s gymnastic champion and author of Confessions of a Division-1 Athlete: A Dad and Daughter’s Guide to Survival, begins each day with the same limb-loosening stretch.

“You need to have the range of motion that will enable your body to accomplish challenging motions whenever you are going to ask your body to perform explosive moves, then oftentimes immediately cease,” she adds of the significance of keeping her body limber. “Plus, when you exercise as much as I did in the past, up to 28 to 30 hours a week, you have to make sure your muscles are long and flexible,” says the author.

When she gets out of bed, she does her swear-by move? Forward fold, the classic old-fashioned way. “It sounds ridiculous, but my go-to is the standard bend over and touch your toes,” she says, “particularly given all the sitting I’m doing these days.” “In the mornings, I’m always tight, especially after a long leg day.”

The standing forward fold has various mental and emotional benefits in addition to the physical benefits it provides, such as helping to loosen your hips, hamstrings, and calves. Forward folds stretch and generate room between the vertebrae of the spine, which is the commander of our autonomic nerve system, according to Savanna Stevens, RYT-200, founder of S3 Yoga. “Because this system has a direct impact on our stress reaction, yoga folds are extremely relaxing for the neurological system, mind, and body.”

It helps to create space for greater circulation to your spinal cord when you’re folded forward, which sends a relaxing signal to your brain. This shifts your body’s fight-or-flight response to rest and digest, which might help you relax more quickly (and explains why forward folds are such a mainstay at the beginning and end of a yoga class). Isn’t it a great way to start the day?

What is a forward fold and how do you do it?

You don’t need gymnast-level talents to perform the move correctly; simply follow these basic steps:

  1. Standing with your feet hip-width apart and your weight equally distributed between your feet, stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Allow your upper body to dangle over your legs while maintaining a slight bend in your knees.
  3. If you’re a beginner, grip your opposite elbows with each hand (this is called the ragdoll stance in yoga), or reach down to your toes.
  4. Keep your head heavy and neck long, and attempt to settle deeper into the posture with each breath, no matter which variant you pick.

While most of us won’t be able to do an aerial cartwheel like Karas, we can all benefit from incorporating her morning stretch into our daily routines.

Follow along with the series below for additional morning yoga poses worth attempting.

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