After working long hours in the garden, you need more than a warm bath or hot shower to look and feel fresh as a daisy. Cleaning off the inevitable accumulation of garden grime is only part of the solution. To avoid muscular fatigue and discomfort due to overexertion, it’s worth the effort to do some muscle-relaxing stretches once your chores are completed.
Weary back, leg, and neck muscles will benefit from a mere few minutes (and that’s all it takes) of soothing, after-gardening moves. Because moist heat and humidity make tight muscles and stiff joints more receptive to relaxing, it’s most therapeutic to do the following stretches after you shower or bathe. Or, if you prefer, you can practice only the stretches that suit your needs. To enhance the relaxation response, always inhale before you stretch and exhale as you slowly move into the stretch. Keep your breathing smooth and fluid while maintaining it for the suggested counts.
For Your Back
Lie down on the floor and place your lower legs up on a raised and comfortable surface so that your legs are fully supported. (You need a chair, bed, or sofa that is as high as your thighs are long.) The surface must allow you to place your thighs closer than a right angle (i.e., nearer your chest). Relax your arms out to your sides at shoulder level, palms up. Rest in this position for one or two minutes, or for as long as it takes for your back muscles to relax.
Lie on your back with knees bent, both feet flat on the floor. Place your left leg over your right. Lower left leg toward the floor to your left, until you feel a stretch in the right hip and lower back. Keep upper back, shoulders, and head on the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to center and repeat on the other side.
Lie on your back with your knees bent toward your chest. Place your hands below the knees. Pull your thighs toward your chest, keeping your neck relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
For Your Legs
Sit on the floor with your back against a wall and extend your legs in front, ankles together. Reach forward and hook a tie/belt around the balls of your feet. Keeping your knees straight, pull back firmly on the tie/belt until you feel tension in the back of your lower legs. Hold for 20 seconds, then release. (Relaxes calves/Achilles tendon.)
Lie on your back and extend your right leg forward. Extend your left leg up and loop a tie/belt around the back of your calf. Pull the leg gently toward you, keeping it as straight as possible, foot flexed. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 counts. Lower the leg and repeat on the other side. If this stretch is too strenuous, bend the opposite extended leg and place the foot on the floor. (Relaxes calf and hamstring.)
For Your Neck
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, your knees shoulder-width apart, and your hands hanging loosely at your sides. Tuck your chin toward your chest and slowly roll down, bringing your shoulders toward your knees. Hold for eight counts, allowing any tension in your neck to release. Return to the starting position by slowly unrolling your lower back, then your shoulders, and lastly your head. (Relaxes back of the neck.)
Sit in a chair and place your right hand on the top of your head, above your left ear. Gently pull your head toward your right shoulder. Hold the position for 30 seconds, keeping your left arm loose and relaxed. Repeat on the left side. (Relaxes side of the neck.)