Stretches For Bed Rest
Do ask your doctor if these stretches/exercises are right for you while on bed rest, but don’t be surprised when she looks at you as if you’re an A+ student going above and beyond. These stretches are simple, but will help to ease out the kinks of being sedentary, and therefore, will make you feel a little better! Remember, a good stretch is always accompanied with deep and steady breathing.
Start by sitting up, with head reaching for the ceiling (spine is lengthening), and an engaged core. Begin with the neck—looking up to the ceiling, and down to your belly button. Inhale as you look up, exhale as you look down. Continue for several breaths. Then look over each shoulder, moving head side to side (always following your breath), then drop ear to shoulder, alternating sides. Finish stretching the neck by taking a few head circles in each direction.
Moving down the body, begin to stretch the shoulders by bringing a straight arm across the body, and pulling the elbow toward the body with the opposite hand. Take a few breaths, and then change sides. Do shoulder rolls, shrugging both shoulders up toward the ears, and then sliding the shoulder blades down the back. Then do arm circles in the same manner, reaching toward the back. Reach one hand behind the head, while the other comes up from underneath and behind the back, clasping hands together. If this stretch is too deep, grab the ends of a sock or a towel to give yourself a bit more slack. Next for the shoulders and chest (still sitting tall), place your hands behind your sit bones on the bed or floor, with your wrists touching, and press palms downward, letting your upper body open.
Focusing on the torso and lower back, gently twist side to side by sitting tall, grabbing opposite knee with opposite hand, and gazing over the shoulder. Hold stretch for 10-20 seconds, and alternate sides as many times as your back and body need. From there, lie down and perform the same twists again, this time reaching the same side arm and knee in opposite directions. The knee comes across body toward bed, and the arm/face/torso reach in the opposite direction.
Focusing on the lower body, hold behind calve, knee, or thigh, and roll ankles. If you have the flexibility and your tummy is not in the way, cross one ankle over the opposite knee, and pull the legs into the body to open hips and stretch the outer thigh (which in turn may help release lower back pain). Take time here, leaving feet in the air to aid blood flow back to the heart. (In fact, prop feet up often to have more energy, lessen edema, and to reduce the chances of varicose veins.)
Once again, focusing on the mobility of the back, come into a bridge pose. Lying down, knees bent, the feet will press into the mattress and gluts will engage to lift the body up, one vertebra at a time, until your body makes a bridge. Raise and lower slowly, letting your breath move the body, and making sure to articulate the spine.
Last stretch. Touching the corners of the universe, lie on your back and stretch the limbs as far as they will go in their respective directions (including fingers and toes). Take several deeps breaths as the body reaches longer and longer, and then take several deep breaths as the body melts into the mattress. (if this is the only stretch you do. It is well worth it. It alleviates postural discomfort by lengthening the spine, opening tight chest muscles (typically manifest in the form of slouching shoulders), and releases tight hip flexors (which in turn releases back muscles and eases back pain).
And there you have it! Do these stretches everyday, and you should be feeling great! Your body will be happy, and bed rest will seem more of a luxury!