What if there was one stretch that you could do after waking up every day and before any workout? What if it targeted your ankles, hips, and spine, and much else, all in one easy move? Surely it would then be called the World’s Greatest Stretch? In fact, such a stretch does exist, and if done correctly, one might accept the exaggerated name it has earned over time.
Now this is not a one-step stretch—like any other multi-benefit movement, it has parts to it—but these parts do not need exceptional flexibility or strength. The point is not to compete with other complex stretches which are part of advanced yoga, but to make it accessible even for those who do not necessarily workout, but feel stiff after a day of physical exhaustion or even desk work.
It is important to break down the stretch as well, only to make sure you are getting every advantage from doing it. The stretch starts with the inchworm, which is basically walking out slowly into a high plank position. This primes your hamstrings and back for the deeper stretch that is coming. Doing a few inchworms before getting into the full stretch is also a good idea. The video below demonstrates an inchworm, but it is okay if your full sole and/or full palm isn’t touching the floor. You will get there over time.
The second part of the stretch is a low lunge. An incredibly common move in any stretching routine, you need to take any one of your feet and place it on the outside of the same side’s palm. For better understanding, let’s consider that you’ve gone with the right foot first.
The yoga equivalent would be the Anjaney asana, the difference being that the asana would require you to place your foot between the two palms rather than outside one of them. At this point in the world’s greatest stretch, you are in a low lunge with your right foot just outside your right palm, almost as if you are lunging in a one-sided high plank position.This is where the fun begins. The low lunge will already be felt as a deep stretch in the quadriceps and hip flexors, especially if you keep your core braced while performing it.
The next step is to attempt and touch the right elbow (of the same side as the corresponding foot which you have stepped up) to the floor before opening upwards. However, most people cannot do that, and it is entirely okay to simply drive your elbow as low as possible. This will instantly stretch the glute of the same side you have stepped out in.The final step is to rotate and extend upwards with the right arm. This is the thoracic spine stretch, with added benefits of the chest opening up as you reach out. The video below should give you a basic understanding of the move.
There are various variations to the stretch, as with any other exercise. The most basic version will allow you to bring back the arm from its rotation, place it back next to the foot on the same side, and return to a high plank. However, for added benefit, you can push your hip upwards and attempt to straighten out the entire leg that is pushed forward for an added hamstring stretch, before returning to the starting point. Some fitness experts prefer a big step forward rather than an inchworm as well, so it all comes down to how flexible your body is. JoeTherapy’s breakdown of the entire stretch with this advanced inclusion is an excellent video to know why you should do this stretch a few times a day.
Remember to spend a few seconds on every step of the move because this is a mix of static and dynamic stretching which will activate the central nervous system within a few minutes. There is probably no other routine that targets your hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, ankles, shoulders, thoracic spine, calves and includes rotation movements with such ease—and this is why, it is currently the undisputed world’s greatest stretch.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.