One stretch I really like is what is called a “fold and roll.” I like it because it’s easy to do as a dynamic stretch in the morning when you’re getting yourself ready for the day, after you’ve been sitting for a while, if you’re a rider it’s easy to in the barn aisle before you ride, or great to do in the evening at the end of your day.
And, it’s a very efficient use of time as it covers many muscle groups and joints in a simple movement! For example, it loosens hips, hamstrings, calves, lower back, shoulders, chest and spine in two directions (forward and backward).
* Like this video shows, for the optional added shoulder mobility, you can also do the stretch with a strap in both hands (like a housecoat strap, or even better: a resistance band, as you will see in the video… or a schooling whip if you’re at the barn!), holding it about shoulder-width or slightly wider, and once you roll back up, do a full shoulder rotation by bringing your arms down behind your back.
When you are stretching, your goal is to bring your muscles to a point where you feel a slight but comfortable stretch. Even when you’re spending time on deep stretches at the end of the day, never force your muscles to the point of pain. If you feel PAIN in a joint, back off immediately. Even though your muscle itself may not feel challenged in a stretch, pain in your joints indicates the ligament ends of your muscles are getting pulled too much, and you need to help them lengthen slowly.
*It’s important to remember that it’s YOUR stretch. A successful stretch has nothing to do with achieving a certain posture or looking like a more flexible person. It’s about getting the result you need to get out of YOUR body, not someone else’s.
Want to increase your range-of-motion, suppleness, and mobility – naturally?
How to do the Fold & Roll (with optional shoulder-opening):
Slowly roll yourself downwards, trying to go one vertebra at a time. (If your lower back bothers you while doing this, put your arms out and swan dive as low as you can get, with a straight back. By aiming at keeping a flat back, you will pull your seat-bones up, and get a better quality stretch for your lower back and hamstring, without causing pain.)
When you cannot lower yourself down any further, take a breath in and start rolling back up. Keep your arms reaching down while rolling back up to get a nice stretch feeling between your shoulder blades.
Your neck is the last section of your spine to come back up. Once your head and neck are aligned over your shoulders, hips, and heels, either stand tall and take another breath in.
Optional shoulder-opening with resistance band: Opening your arms and reaching back into a very brief extension will further stretch your spine and abdominals while opening up your chest and freeing your pectoral muscles.
If you don’t get the complete range of motion you see in the video, don’t worry. The act of moving your spine and shoulders, and lengthening your hamstrings through this flowing motion combo stretch will loosen tight areas and have an immediate impact on your suppleness. Gradually, with daily practice, you will find your range of motion increases as your muscles lengthen naturally.