It is well known that students need intermittent breaks within the day to stretch and give their bodies a break. This will help their bodies and their minds allowing them to focus and continue working. Show students how to stretch and energize all their muscles!
1. Sway like a Tree
This stretch focuses on the whole body. Have students stand up straight, raise their arms way up above their heads and put their feet together. Tell them to close their eyes and pretend they are a tree. Now most of your students will probably start swaying but tell them not to and to wait for directions. Start by creating a mental picture of the tallest tree in the pasture. Then, with their eyes closed have them move to the strength of the wind. Alternate between telling them the wind is a light gentle breeze on a warm summer day, to a strong, gusty wind. I always end off with saying there’s a hurricane and let it get chaotic for a bit.
Another great stretch is for students to pretend they are windmills. With their feet slightly apart, students move their arms in unison and in a circular motion (clockwise and then counter clockwise) in front of them. Alternatively, students can do shoulder windmills, where their arms move in opposite directions and from back to front.
3. Kiss/Lick Yourself
I use this to stretch out the neck muscles. Have students tuck their chins into their chests without pulling up their shoulders and hold that for 10 seconds and release. I challenge students to kiss/lick their chests in this position. Obviously they are not usually able to do the last part but it is funny to look at and sometimes you will be surprised!
4. Big Ears
This stretch focuses on shoulders and arms. While students are seated have them place and link their hands behind their heads. Ensuring they have their chest and chin lifted, tell students to stretch their elbows as far back as possible, hold for 10 seconds. Have them stare at each other, as they now have big ears! Repeat this a few times, and have them relax for 5 seconds between each stretch.
5. Palm Press
As we and students are using more of our fingers and hands (computers, touch pads, texting etc.), we are definitely more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome (a Repetitive Strain Injury). To help stretch your hands, do the following: place palms together and pointing upwards push against each other. Hold this press for 10 seconds, release. Repeat, but this time ensure hands are pointing down to the floor (the base of your palms pointing up). Keep alternating between these two positions.
6. Hold up the wall
Students usually have poor posture while working at their desks, reading, and on their computers. Ask students to pick a spot on the wall and stand as tall as possible. Ensure their heels are up against and touching the wall. While in this position, have students push their shoulders into the wall. Students should hold for 10 seconds. This will stretch their shoulders and help correct their alignment and posture as well.
7. Hula Hip Circles
Have students imagine they have hula hoops around their waists. With their feet spread wider than their shoulder-width and hands on their hips, have students move their hips in a circle, in a clockwise direction. Do this 10-15 times and then have them repeat in a counter-clockwise direction.
8. Leg Stretch
This stretch is to alleviate lower body problems even in students. Tell students to position themselves seated on the edge of their chair and straighten out one of their legs in front of them resting the heel on the floor. Students are to bend forward at the hip until they feel a stretching sensation at the back of their thigh. Be sure that they keep their back straight. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Relax and return to the starting position and repeat the stretch with the other leg. Also ensure that students do not bounce as this quickly shortens and lengthen the muscle which could cause it to tear.
9. Standing on the Quad
Standing tall and holding on to the back of their chair, have students raise one heel toward buttocks and grasp ankle (not foot) joint with same side hand. Have students tilt their pelvic inwards and squeeze their buttocks in order to extend hip back slightly. This should create a stretch in the front of the thigh. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds at a time. (Repeat with other leg)
10. Step over the Pothole
Ask students to find some open space and imagine there is a pothole on the ground. Ask them to straddle over the “pothole” & reach to touch with their fingers the outline of the pothole in front of them. For students who find this easy, have them straddle farther apart or instead of finger touching the outline, they can place their palms to the ground.
Frankenstein, or walking toe-touch, focuses on stretching the hamstrings. Students are to begin by standing tall and keep their arms extended in front of them at shoulder height. Ask students to begin walking straight. They are to keep one leg locked out and planted into the floor and kick their opposing extended leg up toward their opposite hand’s fingertips. Alternate legs as they Frankenstein walk for 10 to 15 steps.
12. Rolling Ankles
We cannot forget about this part of the body! Stand on one foot while you have the other raised above the ground. Students are to rotate their ankle 10 times clockwise and 10 times counter clock wise. Repeat this with the other foot. This is also a balancing exercise. If students have difficulty, they can hold onto their desks, or place the rotating foot on its toes and rotate it against the floor.