6 Stretches to Help You Feel Grounded and Stay Present

A man sits cross-legged on a yoga mat on the floor. His arms are extended above his head, hands clasped together, as he stretches to his left.

Let’s take a second to check in. Are your shoulders tight? Is your breathing shallow? How long exactly have you been looking at this screen?

If your job or schooling (or your child’s schooling) requires you to sit in front of a computer for hours, or your commute has become the few steps from your bed to your kitchen, your body is likely feeling it. Bad ergonomics aside, tense muscles can also be a stress response.

While you likely can’t overhaul your entire way of life, you can greatly improve how you feel through one simple practice: stretching.

Why is stretching so beneficial?

Stretching regularly can help increase your flexibility and range of motion. Not only does this help us go about our daily activities with ease (picking up boxes, reaching for things off a tall shelf), but it can also help prevent injury. Stretching, when done properly, can also help reduce muscle pain. Even if you’re not in pain — maybe just tight and achy — it just feels good.

And then there are the potential mental benefits. “By incorporating stretching into our daily routine and taking time to focus on our body, we give ourselves space to be more present and grounded,” says AbleTo Clinical Content Producer Sarah Dolling, LPC.

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6 stretches that help melt away stress

You can do these stretches in isolation or together as part of a longer routine. Unless noted, hold each one for 15 to 30 seconds or however long feels good.
Remember, stretching isn’t a competition. And it should never be painful. If you experience pain, slowly release from the stretch. Also, if you have a prior or existing injury or any physical limitations, consult with your doctor before starting a stretching routine.

Seated spinal twist

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your right hand on the outside of the opposite thigh and twist to the left, lengthening your spine.
  • Hold here, gazing over your left shoulder, continuing to breathe normally.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Chest opener

  • Stand or sit up tall.
  • Keeping your core tight, clasp your hands together behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold here, continuing to breathe normally.
  • Release, slowly bringing your hands back by your sides.

Side neck rotation

  • Stand or sit up tall.
  • Slowly tilt your head toward your right shoulder, keeping your shoulders relaxed and your back straight. To deepen the stretch, gently place your hand on top of your head and lightly press it toward your shoulder.
  • Hold here, continuing to breathe normally.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Knee-to-chest stretch

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Draw your right knee to your chest, clasping your hands behind your thigh or over your shin.
  • Hold here, continuing to breathe normally.
  • Switch sides and repeat.


  • Begin on your hands and knees with your fingers pointed forward. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Inhale deeply, lifting your chest and chin up and letting your stomach drop towards the floor. You should be gazing at the ceiling with your shoulders drawn down away from your ears.
  • Exhale fully, pulling your stomach to your spine so your back arches toward the ceiling. Allow your head to drop so you can see the front of your thighs.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute, staying in sync with your breath.

Child’s pose

  • Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels with your big toes touching. Spread your knees past your hips (about a mat’s-width apart, if you’re using one).
  • Exhale and fold forward, letting your belly rest between your thighs and your forehead rest on the floor (or a pillow, if you need one).
  • Walk your hands forward and rest them on the floor. Or, reach them toward your feet, allowing them to rest on the floor, palms up.
  • Rest here as long as it’s comfortable.
  • To release, place your hands by your sides, palms down, and push your chest up. Sitting on your heels, lean to one side and swing your legs out in front of you.

Develop a practice

How to establish a stretching routine is up to you. Some like to sprinkle in stretches throughout the day. Others prefer a morning or evening stretching practice. Regular exercisers may find it easiest to stretch before and after their fitness routine.

If you’re likely to get swept up in the responsibilities of the day, consider setting calendar reminders so you don’t forget to take quick breaks to stretch.

Like meditation, stretching encourages living in the present moment and getting in touch with our physical and innermost selves. The next time you feel yourself getting stressed over work or life in general, take a moment to check in with yourself. Notice the parts of your body that are clenched and tight. Take a few deep breaths and indulge in a stretch. See, that’s much better, isn’t it?

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By AbleTo

Clinically reviewed by Hayley Quinn, PsyD, Senior Manager of Clinical Product Experience at AbleTo.

Photo by Surface/Unsplash. Individuals in photographs do not represent AbleTo participants.

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