Stretch + Relax

Stretch + Relax is part of Jessica Smith’s new Strong + Centered Series, which is made up of 6 DVDs/19 workouts total. Jessica has also created an 8 week rotation calendar using the Strong + Centered workouts. All of the workouts are available both on DVD and as a downloads. All of the DVDs in the program will eventually be reviewed on this blog, but some will post sooner than others. Since I am currently doing Caroline Girvan‘s 6 week Iron Series, the strength workouts in the Strong + Centered Series will be the last reviews to post. I have already reviewed Walk a 5K (The Fun Way).

Stretch + Relax contains 5 flexibility sessions, and each is under 20 minutes. It is set outdoors to relaxing music. In the intro Jessica says she created these short stretching sessions to help people incorporate stretching into their daily lives. They are short and uncomplicated, yet each session will stretch your entire body. I really enjoyed this DVD and foresee myself returning to it frequently. All of the sessions are thorough and feel good, and the music is beautiful and relaxing. The only session I probably won’t bother with in the future was Release but I loved all of the others.

Rise is 18:25 minutes. Equipment: fitness mat. Optional: chair and pillow(s). Jessica shows easier variations for some of the exercises using the chair and pillows. This was a nice, feel good stretch. This session contains no advanced or difficult to do stretches. Just feel good flexibility. Most of the stretches are dynamic (you flow in and out of them) and some of them I felt more than others. But that has to do with my own personal flexibility. I did not need any of the optional equipment. All I used was a mat.

  1. Stand, take deep breaths, reaching arms overhead until palms are together then lower hands in front of chest in prayer
  2. Circle wrists
  3. Shoulder circles
  4. Neck retractions (pull chin back toward chest)
  5. With elbows bent in front of you, touch finger to the back of shoulders then sweep arms in front of you and down behind you, lifting straight arms behind you; continue this motion but change hand position so when arms are raised behind you, hands are flexed and palms face behind you
  6. With elbows bent in front of you, touch thumbs to the back of shoulders and hold stretch
  7. In split stance with hands stacked and arms raised in front of you, lean torso forward for a triangle stretch then shift back, bending back knee but keeping front leg straight for a calf stretch
  8. Forward fold; walk hands out and lower to all 4s
  9. On all 4s, reach one arm toward the ceiling then lower arm into thread the needle pose
  10. Start laying on stomach with arms extended overhead, arms and legs are open in an X, lift one arm and rotate body open, bending same side knee so you are in a spine twist (you’re also stretching your chest and shoulder)
  11. Still laying on stomach, open one arm to side with elbow bent at 90 degrees, with other arm, push torso off floor, twisting body to look up to ceiling, stretching shoulder and chest
  12. Sit with legs in a pretzel variation, one leg is bent in front of you with knee bent at 90 degrees and the other leg is bent behind you with knee bent at 90 degrees, lean body to side over front leg, place forearm on mat and reach other arm overhead, rotate arm open behind you while also opening chest then lower arm toward floor while also rotating torso toward floor
  13. Same starting position as #12 but torso upright and fingertips are on floor framing front leg, cat/cow the spine
  14. Repeat #12 & 13 on other side of body
  15. Rocking frog (kneel on mat with knees and feet as wide as you can manage, upper body is lowered onto forearms, shift body forward and back
  16. Kneeling lunge, shift the body deeply forward then back (hip flexor stretch)
  17. Sit cross-leg on floor, bring one leg up w/ knee bent and heel on floor in front of you, flex foot and release foot
  18. Still sitting cross leg, interlace fingers with toes of top foot, circle ankle
  19. Repeat #17 & 18 on other side of body
  20. On hands and knees with toes on mat, shift hips back into down dog pose, pedal feet; walk hands back into forward fold
  21. Roll up to standing then repeat #1

Release is 15:42 minutes. Equipment: fitness mat and yoga strap or long towel. Jessica is using a rolled up beach towel. This was my least favorite of all of the sessions. Using the strap or towel is optional but since it was my first time doing this session, I used my yoga strap. I found it awkward for some of the moves and ended up doing many of the stretches without it. Though Jessica does stretch your entire body and, like all of the other stretch sessions, there are no complicated or advanced moves, I did not enjoy this session as much as the others, nor did I feel as well stretched at the end.

  1. Neck stretches, turn chin to side, looking over shoulder, towel/strap is around neck, bring one end up against chin to gently guide chin further into stretch
  2. Towel/strap is still around neck, lift chin up to stretch the neck, gently pulling on both ends of towel/strap
  3. Hold one end of towel/strap in one hand, extend that arm overhead, bend elbow so hand/towel/strap falls behind back, reach up front behind with other hand and grasp towel/strap, pull up with top hand
  4. Lay on back with towel/strap wrapped under knees and holding one end in each hand, pull legs into chest
  5. Same position as #4, rotate both knees to knee side holding ends of strap/towel together in one hand and open other arm out to side, trying to get arm/shoulder on floor so you are in a lying spinal twist
  6. Still laying on back, strap/towel is still wrapped under one knee, foot is on floor, other leg is crossed with ankle against thigh of floor leg, push hand against crossed knee; use towel/strap to pull leg into chest (reclining pigeon/figure 4 stretch)
  7. Still laying on back, strap/towel is still wrapped under one knee, other knee is bent w/ foot on floor, straighten leg with towel/strap around it and extend foot to ceiling, pulling leg in closer to body with strap/towel
  8. Same starting position as #7, hold both ends of towel/strap in opposite hand and pull leg across body
  9. Repeat #7 & 8 on other side of body
  10. Lay on side with towel/strap wrapped around the top of top leg’s foot, knee is bent and in line with hips, pull heel into glutes to stretch the quad; roll onto stomach, continuing to pull heel into glutes
  11. Sit on bottom, one knee is bent w/ heel on mat and towel/strap wrapped around ball of foot, using strap/towel, pull foot in toward body; move towel/strap up to toes, using towel/strap, pull toes back toward body
  12. Sit cross leg with hands on knees and eyes closed

Relax is 19:26 minutes. Equipment: fitness mat. Optional: pillow. This was a very relaxing stretch session. Jessica manages to stretch your entire body while also allowing you to relax into every stretch. To be more specific, while one muscle group is being stretched, the rest of your body is relaxed. For the first exercise below, I used Jessica’s suggestion to use my hand to deepen the stretch. That actually caused some discomfort on one side of my neck so maybe I was doing it wrong. Everything else in this stretch session felt good. I also used a pillow.

  1. Lay on stomach, arms are floor, turn head to side and rest cheek on mat to stretch neck (Jessica says you can move one hand under cheek and lift hand slightly to deepen neck stretch)
  2. Still laying on stomach, hands are stacked with forehead resting on hands, bend knees, raising the feet and circling the ankles; knees still bent, windshield wiper legs side to side
  3. Still laying on stomach, extend one arm straight on mat, overhead and on a diagonal, put other hand on mat under shoulder and push torso up, rotating body to stretch chest/shoulder
  4. Puppy pose (on knees and forearms, head lowered, round back then lower upper body/shoulders into puppy pose, Jessica’s elbows are resting on the pillow)
  5. Lay on side with legs extended straight, upper body is resting on bottom elbow (Jessica’s hip is resting on the pillow); raise onto hand of bottom of arm, arm straight (side stretch)
  6. Side lying quad stretch (lay on side, bottom leg bent at 90 degrees in front of you, hold foot of top leg and pull leg behind you, pulling heel into glute (Jessica’s head is reading on the pillow)
  7. Lay on back (Jessica’s head is resting on pillow), legs are crossed with thighs together, pull knees into chest; w/ legs crossed, rotate legs to side into a spinal twist stretch; with legs in same position, rotate legs to other side
  8. Same position as #7 but swap leg position and repeat
  9. Still lying on back, knees are bent and feet are on mat, lower bent leg in toward other leg (other leg remains stationary)
  10. Sit up with one leg extended straight on front of you, other leg is bent with insole of foot pressed against inner thigh of other leg (Jessica is sitting on the pillow), reach arms overhead then hinge forward into seated single leg forward fold
  11. Get on all 4s on mat (Jessica’s knees are resting on the pillow), toes on mat, shift glutes back toward heels; lift hands off mat so glutes are resting on heels
  12. Repeat #11 but with tops of feet flat on mat
  13. Lay back on mat in corpse pose (Jessica’s head is resting on pillow)

Recover is 14:51 minutes. Equipment: chair with a high back and fitness mat. Optional: pillows. Jessica shows easier modifications for some of the exercises. This is another feel good, thorough total body stretch. There are no difficult or challenging stretches and Jessica offers modifications if something is too challenging for you. I did this stretch after an intense total body strength workout and it felt wonderful.

  1. Sit on chair and do neck stretches, bending ear toward shoulder; place hand on head to gently pull head closer to shoulder while reaching other arm to floor
  2. Still seated, cross ankles and flex bottom foot while turning crossed foot on it’s side (this is a stretch for the side of the top foot, Jessica shows 2 other ways to perform this stretch)
  3. Still seated, press the toes of one foot into the floor while raising heel as high as you can; tuck toes under and press down on top of foot
  4. Sit sideways in chair, place one arm against side of chair back, elbow is bent at 90 degrees, turn torso away from arm
  5. Face forward in chair, raise arms overhead and hinge forward over legs; walk hands over to one side and reach one arm further away
  6. Hands hold chair behind you, arch spine
  7. Seated pigeon (still sitting in chair, cross one ankle over knee of other leg, open knee to side and hinge torso forward over leg)
  8. Stand facing chair seat, legs are wide, hinge forward and place elbows/forearms on chair seat, pushing hips back
  9. Still facing chair seat, lower to knees (Jessica’s knees are resting on pillow), hinge forward placing folded arms on chair seat, drop chest toward floor
  10. Still facing chair seat, place one foot forward beside chair and shift forward into kneeling lunge, one forearm resting on chair seat (Jessica’s back knee is on pillow); raise back calf/foot, hold back foot and pull heel into glutes
  11. Standing cat/cow (stand with legs shoulder width, hands on thighs, round and arch spine)
  12. Standing, place hands on small of back and extend/arch spine

Rejuvenate is 17:53 minutes. Equipment: fitness mat. Optional: pillow(s). Jessica shows easier modifications for some of the exercises. Another feel good, total body stretch. Nothing advanced or complicated but Jessica does hit some of the muscles deeply.

  1. Stand w/ legs hip width apart, do a side stretch reaching one arm overhead and to the side and reaching the other arm toward the floor, alternate sides
  2. Sit cross-leg on mat and stretch neck, looking over one shoulder then the other; changes to looking upward then downward
  3. Still sitting cross-leg, place hands on mat behind you and arch spine, looking to ceiling
  4. Still sitting cross-leg, place one hand on mat beside you and lean into a side stretch, draw large circles with other arm
  5. Lay on back with knees bent and feet on mat, extend arms out to sides on mat, elbows in line with shoulders, bend elbows at 90 degrees so hands reach to ceiling, slowly lower hands toward the ground so arms are in goal post; reverse the direction, lowering arms into an upside down goalpost w/ palms facing mat
  6. Cat/cow on hands and knees
  7. Pigeon pose (Jessica shows modifications)
  8. Lay on side, top knee is bent and on mat in front of you, back knee is bent behind you, hold foot of back bottom leg and pull heel into glute, stretching quad, rotate top shoulder toward floor behind you, opening chest
  9. Lay on back w/ knees bent and pulled into chest, hands are on knees, use hands to circle legs
  10. Lay on back w/ one knee bent and foot on floor, other leg is raised to ceiling, hands behind thigh, hands are pulling leg toward you while leg is pressing away (continue contracting and releasing to deepen the stretch)
  11. Still laying on back, extend both legs to ceiling, circle the ankles; point toes and the try to bring big toes together (knees are bent) to stretch outside of foot; bend knees while flexing feet then extend legs straight while pointing feet/toes
  12. Still laying on back, one knee is bent with foot on floor, bring other foot into chest and massage foot with both hands; changes to manipulating and flexing toes
  13. Get on all 4s with toes on mat and shift hips back toward heels to stretch feet
  14. Yogi squat (legs wide, toes turned out, feet flat and glutes near mat)
  15. Forward fold then roll up to standing
  16. Standing, place hands on small of back and extend/arch spine
  17. Shoulder rolls
  18. Take one deep breath, reaching arms overhead then lowering them

4 thoughts on “Stretch + Relax

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