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Try This Quick Stretch When Your Body Is Stiff and Achy from Sitting Through a Show

From Self Magazine-By Jenny McCoy-Reviewed by Christa Sgobba, C.P.T.

Loosen up your body and enjoy the rest of the concert, movie, or performance.

SOS Stretches are designed to be done in the moment—when you need them most. These super quick routines will relieve tension, tightness and ease sore muscles from whatever activity you’re taking part in. In today’s intermission at the theater routine, you’ll be:

  • Stretching your: Neck, hip flexors, back, hamstrings, and calves.
  • You can do this: At the theater wearing whatever clothes you have on—even if it’s a form-fitting outfit and high heels. These stretches are discreet and don’t require big movements, making them easy to do while you’re waiting in line for the bathroom or socializing in the lobby. Plus, some can be done right in your chair.

If you’ve ever felt stiff and achy after a night out at the theater (or any time you’ve been sitting still in a cramped space), well, it only makes sense. Not only are you sitting for a good chunk of the time, but the chairs are often small, and typically you’re shoulder to shoulder with the people next to you. As a result, you’ll probably keep your elbows in your lap, clam up, and really fold your body into itself, physical therapist Brando Lakes, DPT, cofounder of Kinesadelic in NYC, tells SELF.

Additionally, during tense parts of the show, your head will likely come forward to capture every word, and your shoulders may raise up toward your ears, says Lakes. And if the theater is chilly—which so many are—your shoulders may also hunch up if you’re cold, he adds. Depending on the length of the show, you may stay locked in these positions for hours at a time and thus experience aches, pains, and stiffness in your body.

Fortunately, with a little bit of stretching, you can counteract that tightness and “reestablish some amount of balance in the body,” says Lakes. With that in mind, Lakes developed the following four-move routine that you can do during a show’s intermission. These gentle stretches will lengthen key muscles that often get tight in a theater scenario—think hips, legs, neck, and back—so you can go about your evening feeling a little less stiff and achy.


  • Do the following stretches for the amount of time designated below. Feel free to do them in any order and mix and match however feels best to you.
  • The sequence as-is will take about three to four minutes, but feel free to repeat it multiple times if you’d like. Just be sure to listen to your body and back off if the moves feel too intense. “As long as you feel a stretch, you’re good,” says Lakes.
  • While sitting or standing place your hand on your neck near your right clavicle .  Bend your head to the left then turn...
  • 1. SCM/Scalene Stretch
    • While sitting or standing, place your hand on your neck near your right clavicle (collarbone).Bend your head to the left, then turn and look up and towards the right side, as pictured. You should feel a stretch in the front of your neck in the area where your hand is.Hold for 30 seconds while deep breathing.Switch sides and repeat.
    The scalenes are a group of neck muscles that engage when you bring your shoulders up toward your ears, and the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) is a neck muscle that is activated when you bring your head forward and rotate it to the side (like if you’re seated on the right side of the theater and crane your neck to the left to catch the action), explains Lakes. This stretch targets the scalenes and the SCM and can help reduce neck stiffness.
  • Stand tall with one foot about two feet in front of the other. Place your hands on your hips or rest them by your sides....
  • 2. Standing Hip Flexors Stretch
    • Stand tall with one foot about two feet in front of the other. Place your hands on your hips or rest them by your sides. Slightly bend your front knee, tilt your pelvis back, and squeeze both glutes.You should feel a stretch in the front hip and/or thigh of your back leg.Hold for 30 seconds or longer if you’d like. Switch sides and repeat.
    This stretch targets your hip flexors, a group of hip muscles that get tight when you sit for prolonged periods of time (such as during a lengthy show). If you struggle to balance in this pose, rest your hand against a wall, pillar, or other person.
  • From a seated or standing position lean back from your mid back . You can also place your hands behind your head elbows...
  • 3. Thoracic Extension
    • From a seated or standing position, lean back from your mid back (as pictured). You can also place your hands behind your head, elbows bent. Try to get your sternum (a bone that sits in between your collarbones) and your elbows to point straight up towards the ceiling.Stop when you feel a stretch in your upper back and hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
    This move helps counteract the ill-effects of slouched, forward-leaning posture by opening up your chest and stretching your mid-back, upper-back, and neck.
  • Stand tall with one foot in front of the other.  Keep your back leg straight and back foot flat on the ground while you...
  • 4. Standing Heel-Up Hamstring and Gastrocnemius Stretch
    • Stand tall with one foot in front of the other.
    • Keep your back leg straight and back foot flat on the ground, while you point your toes on the front foot up toward the ceiling. Keep your front heel on the ground.
    • Tilt the front of your hips down and feel a stretch in your front hamstring and at the top of your calf.
    • Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

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