How: Lie faceup on a mat with a rolled up towel or foam roller under and parallel to your thoracic spine. Rest your arms by your side or out wide. Hold for 40 seconds to 2 minutes.
Why: When someone is stressed or grieving, their shoulders might be rounded to protect the heart, says Loren Tazalla, a massage therapist at The Loop in Chicago. “This simple stretch opens up the chest and helps your shoulders melt to the ground.”
How: Lie faceup on a mat with your knees bent and feet planted at hip-width. Engage your core and glutes and exhale as you lift your hips. Hold, then inhale and lower to start for one rep. Complete 1 set of 10 reps with 3-second holds and 1 set of 10 reps with 5-second holds.
Why: “This will release tension in the psoas muscles and the obliques,” says Murray.
How: Stand tall with a neutral spine and pelvis, feet at hip-width, and arms extended down and out, holding a resistance band taut with both hands. Slowly lift your arms to bring the band over your head, then lower your arms behind you to bring the band as close to the small of your back as you comfortably can. Reverse the motion to return to start for one rep. Perform 5 reps with this wide grip, then 10 reps with your hands closer together once your shoulders are warmed up.
Why: This move opens the chest and builds shoulder mobility, Rauso says, both of which are important for mood-boosting posture.
How: Stand tall with arms by your sides, your right hand in a fist, and feet at hip-width. Keeping your left arm straight, elevate, protract, depress, and retract your left shoulder for one rep. (Imagine you're drawing a square with your shoulder.) There should be no influence of any musculature besides those involved in moving the shoulder. Complete 5 reps in each direction, then switch arms and repeat.
Why: Scapula boxes improve the mind-body connection as well as range of motion in the shoulder joint. "This is a good way to train your neuromuscular control to only access the muscles you are intending to activate," Rauso says.
How: Lie faceup on a mat with your knees bent, arms by your sides, and feet planted next to each other. Without lifting your shoulder blades, squeeze your knees together and slowly lower them to the left to stretch the right quadratus lumborum (QL) in your low back. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then return to start for one rep. Complete 3 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Why: Rounding your body forward can negatively affect your mood. This stretch relieves the lower-back tension responsible for that tendency, says Murray. “When you're relaxed, you’re more open to receiving positive things in your life.”
Photography by Mohamed Sadek