How to: stretch out the stress

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Berkeley is hard on your body. How far do you walk every day? How long are you hunched over a desk in your dorm room or in a classroom? How many times have you fallen asleep on an uncomfortable couch, trying to stay awake to study? Dead week might have you aching in weird ways — or maybe you’ve been feeling a little tense for a while now. The Clog suggests stretching to relax those tense muscles. We’ve compiled a list of stretches to address some of the most common areas prone to aches and pains:

Hamstrings: With all the walking you do in Berkeley, you’ve probably noticed that your legs are starting to look kind of … toned. Unfortunately, all that walking also means your legs will probably be aching by the day’s end. What’s your stretching solution? Sit down on the floor. Stretch one leg straight out in front of you. Bend your other leg to your knee. Slowly bend forward over your knee, keeping your back straight. You’ll be feeling better in no time.

Neck: You can only hunch over a VLSB auditorium desk for so long without it becoming painful. Avoid a tense neck by sitting cross-legged and relaxing. Then, slowly look to the left, return to center and slowly look to the right (emphasis on “slowly.” You’re not trying to give yourself whiplash). Look straight down in front of you. Look down with your head turned diagonally to the left and to the right. Slowly.

Shoulders: In addition to your neck, your shoulders are also probably aching from all your time in class. Circle your shoulders forward about five times. Then repeat the circling in a backward motion.

Back: The easiest way to stretch your back is the traditional touch-your-toes routine. But we want to emphasize that you should never round your back when you do this. If you can’t touch your toes, that’s fine; some of us can’t either. Reach as far as you can without rounding your lower back.

Feet: You walk. A lot. Give yourself a much-deserved foot massage. Start with your toes and work into where those toes connect to your feet. Work up your entire foot and into your ankle. Then, move back down your foot. You could also demand that your roommate rub your feet, depending on what kind of relationship you’ve built up with him or her over the semester.

We’re not kinesthetic experts. These work for us, but there are lots of other stretches that you can do to relieve stress and increase flexibility. These are just some incredibly basic stretches that you can use as a study break to help you get through this last week of the semester.

Also, there are so many books about the topic (one we found helpful was “Stretching,” the 20th anniversary edition by Bob Anderson because it’s straightforward, and you get a cool cover illustration of a guy stretching in really short shorts). And, of course, the RSF offers courses in yoga and Pilates if you really want to stretch and strengthen.

What do you do to relieve stress? Share your methods in the comments below!

Image source: Tambako the Jaguar, under Creative Commons

Contact Jessica Rogness at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessarogness.

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