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3 couch stretches that relieve aches and pains

By Dana Santas, CNN

(CNN) — After a long day, there is nothing quite like sinking into the comfort of your couch. But what if this simple pleasure could offer more than just the relaxation that comes from flopping down and stretching out? By incorporating a few deliberate stretches into your couch routine, you can elevate this common ritual to a form of self-care.

The three stretches outlined below can help you transform your couch time into a therapeutic experience that provides both immediate relief and long-term benefits. Because these stretches focus on areas of our bodies that we tend to stress most in our everyday lives, addressing them during daily couch time can ease and even prevent chronic aches and pains.

Ready to give them a try? Head to your couch and follow the instructions below or practice along with the video above.

Stretch 1: Yoga pigeon variation

Start by standing just in front of your couch, facing it. Lay your bent right leg on the cushion so your shin is parallel to the couch edge. Step your left leg back, bending your knee down to the floor as you would in a kneeling lunge. You can place a pillow on the floor under your left knee for added comfort. If your right knee is lifted significantly off the couch, you can also slide a pillow under that knee for support.

Inhale and lengthen through your torso with a neutral spine. Exhale and hinge from your hips to lean forward as much as you feel comfortable as the intensity of the stretch increases. If you feel OK doing so, you can bend all the way over your bent leg, as in a traditional yoga pigeon pose. Hold the position that feels best for you and take three to five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

You should feel this stretch in your outer hip without any pain in your knee or low back. If you feel any pain sensation, back off immediately and try the modification below.

To modify, sit on the couch with both feet on the floor and bring your bent right leg up to place your ankle on your left leg, just above your knee, in a figure-four position. As noted above, lengthen your torso and lean forward to intensify the stretching sensation in your hip. Hold and breathe, then repeat on the other side.

Stretch 2: Quad and hip flexor release

Standing in front of your couch, facing away from it, step your right foot forward and bend at the knee as you would in a lunge. Using an end table or sofa arm for support, lift your left foot behind you and rest it on top of the couch cushion. Bend your left knee down toward the floor as far as you can.

Depending on how tight you feel, adjust the position of your left knee closer to or farther from the couch to increase or decrease the stretch in your quads, the muscles on the front of your upper leg. As in the previous stretch, you can place a pillow on the floor to cushion your knee.

Once you’ve established your position, exhale, bringing your lower ribs down as you tuck your pelvis under. Feel how this positioning intensifies the stretch in your hip flexors, the muscles on the front of your hip. That’s because your largest hip flexor muscle, the psoas major, attaches to your pelvis; when you tuck your pelvis under, that action lengthens the psoas muscle.

Holding the couch or an end table for support, you can increase the intensity and area of the stretch to include your side body by inhaling as you lift your left arm overhead and exhaling as you side bend to the right. Stay in the stretch, side bending with your pelvis tucked, for three to five breaths. Repeat on the other side.

If necessary, you can modify and decrease intensity by moving farther away from the couch, keeping your back knee above the floor, and not incorporating the side bend.

Stretch 3: Hamstring stretch with a twist

While standing, facing your couch, bend into a semi-squat position with your knees just above 90 degrees. Place your left forearm down on the couch, centered and perpendicular to your torso. Reach your right arm forward and inhale as you rotate from your shoulder and the middle of your back to bring your arm above your head with both shoulders aligned vertically. At the same time, straighten your right leg only — leaving your left leg bent.

You should feel a stretch in your chest, front of your shoulder, low back and hamstrings (muscles on the back of your upper leg). Hold this position for three to five breaths, then repeat on the other side.

This is actually a modified version of a windmill twist — a stretch that I recommend everyone should do daily. To do a full windmill twist without using your couch, follow the same cues above but instead of placing your left forearm on your couch, place your left hand on your left shin.

Incorporating intentional stretching into your couch routine isn’t just about momentarily easing tension; it’s an investment in your overall well-being and future comfort.

So, the next time you’re tempted to mindlessly flop on to the cushions, pause and consider these simple yet effective stretches. Your body will thank you for the extra care and attention.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Health

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