“Stretching…you do it when you first wake up in the morning. Animals do it after a nap. Road trippers do it at rest stops. There’s nothing like a good stretch. Its normal, its natural, and it feels great. And more and more people are also discovering the stretching is great for them.”

~ The Stretch Deck, Olivia Miller

In my experience, stretching is the simplest action we can take toward keeping our muscles resilient, supple, pain free, functioning smoothly and with full range. It’s the most effective do-it-yourself method of decreasing pain, knots, and spasms due to muscle tension. And its a brilliant way to get to know your body and to feel what’s tight, what’s relaxed, the difference, and how that effects muscle function and dysfunction. In short, if we wish to maintain the former and minimize the later, stretching is essential.


My first recommendation for getting started is with your massage therapist or physical therapist, if you have one. They will listen to you, consider your past injuries and chronic issues, assess your body for tightness, pain, and limited range. They’ll give you professional advice on what muscle groups will benefit most from stretching and recommend specific stretches. They’ll also be able to follow your progress, re-assess as needed, coach, and cheerlead during your regular appointments together. Sound like the right fit? Make an appointment and let your therapist know you want help building a stretching program.

Another option … If you belong to a club or live in a community that offers classes, have the flexibility in your schedule to access them, enjoy the social aspect of a community classroom, and it fits your budget, by all means, go grab that option or start exploring what’s available!

If you don’t have access to therapists or classes, want to minimize costs or prefer doing things online/onscreen, you’re in luck. The 21st century affords us fantastic options in that arena that bring us much the same experience as being in a class with a professional -- but anywhere and anytime (as long as you’ve got an internet connection or an antennae). Check out the Resources section.

If you prefer old-school DIY, you can build your own stretch sequence from the ground up by using the stretches linked here. If that’s your preference, grab a notebook and pen. First, jot down any stretches you’ve done in the past that were a positive experience. Then, write down the areas of your body that you feel would benefit most from stretching. Next, look at the linked stretches and choose the ones that correspond to what you wrote down and print them up.

Find a place in the house where you’ve got room to lie flat and stretch out. You’ll want some padding, so if there’s no carpet, find a yoga mat or spread out a couple beach towels. Wear comfortable clothes and take off your socks so you won’t slip. Add some tunes that make you smile or relax and your ready.

For the first day, chose just one stretch. Go slow and enjoy it. Really sink into your body and feel it, remembering to be very gentle. Don’t push the stretch and don’t hold it for too long at first. On day 2, add a second stretch. Continue in this way, linking the sequence so that it feels both logical and flowing. Little by little, you’ll be ready to increase the stretch and the amount of time to hold it. You’ll also be adding additional stretches every few days until you’ve lengthened your sequence from a few minutes, up to 20 or 30. Keep the routine full of ease and flow. It should feel good. Really!


  • Your Massage Therapist. Don’t have one yet? Click here or on the massage icon.
  • Local classes: Most cities and towns have yoga and stretching classes available in community centers and clubs, if those venues are an option and preference for you.
  • Online: Yoga with Adriene. This is an amazing resource of online classes that are brilliantly put together and all free. Spend some time looking around on the Website to find the level and vibe that feels right. www.yogawithadriene.com
  • On TV: Your local PBS affliate. In Oregon, on OPB, we have dozens of shows on stretching and yoga. Check them all out and find the ones that work for you. www.pbs.org
  • The Stretch Deck. This box of cards is what we have posted on our stretches link. It’s a great way to put your own customized program together and to change it up whenever you want or need to. www.ChronicleBooks.com


I began to put my own stretching routine together ten years ago after muscle injuries in my back that put me out of work for 6 weeks. I began very gingerly with just a slow and gentle spinal twist. I understood and felt the benefits right away. As a massage therapist, I was embarrassed I hadn’t noticed the issues creeping up on me and had to sustain an injury before I got proactive about starting a regular stretching routine. However, I know I’m in good company because many of my clients have had the same experience. As we get older, or after an injury surprises us, we wonder why, when such a short time ago, being strong and resilient required no effort, that now it suddenly does. The good news is, the practice itself becomes a pleasure and the reward of the resulting wellness even greater as we have helped to create it ourselves.