So it seems my favorite stretch at the moment is the most embarrassing stretch to get caught doing while at the gym. My lower back and hips are always tight, so the “Happy Baby” pose is an amazing stretch to help open up these areas as well as loosen the groin muscles, calves, and even relax your neck. If you have herniated discs or had a recent neck injury, you should avoid this pose completely. Furthermore, I always make it a point to stretch after warming up my muscles through 60 minutes of cardio and lifting.
To perform this stretch, after drawing your knees to your chest, grab the outside of your feet and make sure your ankles are lined up above your knees and your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Slowly pull your knees down on an exhale, making sure not to force the stretch, until the joints loosened up. If you cannot reach your feet, don’t force yourself, you can use a stretch strap. I just discovered stretch straps last summer and I recommend them to everyone, they are awesome!
When I first started doing the Happy Baby stretch, I could tell how tight these problem areas of mine have become. I felt such openness in my lower back and hips for hours afterwards, but then the tightness slowly crept in again and started to really hurt later on that night. Muscle memory is so powerful, and you have to remember it takes a while for your muscles to relearn how to “be” through regular stretching and strengthening. You may be sore from the tightness at first, but you have to start somewhere! After a lower back and hip massage and some Aleve, I was as good as new.