36 Pictures To See Which Muscle You’re Stretching

36 Pictures To See Which Muscle You’re Stretching

Whether you’re a chronic sitter, a daily exerciser, or a weekend warrior, you probably know stretching is a critical habit. By sending blood flow to your muscles and helping your joints move through their full range of motion, stretching improves your posture and athletic performance while lowering your risk of pain and injury.

But when you do yoga or a flexibility routine, do you know which muscles you’re actually stretching? Or whether you’re performing each stretch correctly?

Vicky Timón, a yoga expert and author of “Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises,” created these beautiful illustrations, and James Kilgallon, CSCS, creator of Mazlo’s Body Maintenance Program, contributed the expert commentary.

    Photo credit: Source


      1. Camel Pose

      Muscles highlighted: Rectus Abdominus and External Obliques. This stretch is best reserved for people who have good flexibility already.  Sit on your heels and place your hands behind you as you push your hips up and forward. Avoiding putting too much pressure on your lumbar spine. If you have neck problems do not drop your head back.

      2. Wide Forward Fold

      Muscles highlighted: Adductors. This is a great exercise to open the hips, and stretch the adductors and hamstrings.  Start this stretch with your knees bent, and spine straight.  As your muscles begin to release you can slowly straighten your legs, round out your back and reach for your feet.  Lightly pull on the bottom of the balls of your feet to release the calf muscles as well.  If you can not reach your feet you can use a belt or towel. You can also perform this stretch lying on your back with your feet going up the wall.


        3. Frog Pose

        Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. This is a deep groin stretch that can place pressure on your knees so it’s helpful to be on a soft surface.  Start by resting on your hands and knees and slowly bring your knees wider until you feel a good stretch in your groin muscles. You will feel slight variations in the stretch as you actively push your hips back and forward.

        4. Wide Side Lunge Pose

        Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. Start with both feet forward in a wide stance with your legs as straight as possible.  Slowly walk your hands to your right foot while bending your right knee and rotating your left toes up to the ceiling, sitting into your right hip.  Keep your right foot flat on the ground.



          5. Butterfly Stretch

          Muscles Highlighted: Adductors. Start in a seated position and bring the soles of your feet together and sit tall through your sit bones. Progress this stretch by placing pressure on your knees with your hands. The closer your feet are to your body the more you will stretch your groin muscles.  Bring your feet farther from your hips and slowly round your upper body to release your back muscles.

          6. Forearm Extensor Stretch

          Muscles Highlighted: Forearm Extensor. Start by packing your shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder for the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. Once in this position apply pressure to your opposing hand to begin the stretch.  You can progress this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in a tea cup shape.


            7. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck

            Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Try to keep your neck as long as possible while slowly dropping your ear to your shoulder, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine. You can progress this stretch by being seated on a chair and grabbing the bottom of the seat. This will help you create consistent tension down the arm and neck which will allow you to target the upper traps.

            8. Neck Rotation Stretch

            Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by slowly rotating your neck, while keeping your chin slightly elevated to isolate the SCM.  If you would like to get a deeper stretch apply pressure with the opposite hand from the direction that you are rotating.


              9. Neck Extension Stretch

              Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by placing your hands on your hips, while keeping your spine long start to tilt your head back, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine.

              10. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance

              Muscles Highlighted: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM” and Upper Trapezius.  Try to keep your neck as long as possible while slowly dropping your ear to your shoulder, making sure you are not collapsing your cervical spine. You can progress this stretch by being seated on a chair while grabbing the bottom of the seat.  This will help you create consistent tension down the arm and neck which will allow you to target the upper traps.


                11. Half Kneeling Quad / Hip Flexor Stretch

                Muscles Highlighted: Psoas and Quadracep. Start in a half-kneeling position. As you slowly bring your right hip forward you should begin to feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Grab your back foot and squeeze your back glute to increase the stretch on your Hip Flexors.

                12. Forearm Extensor Stretch

                Muscles Highlighted: Forearm Extensor. Start by packing your shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder for the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. Once in this position apply pressure to your opposing hand to begin the stretch.  You can progress this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in a tea cup shape.



                  13. Lateral Shoulder Stretch

                  Muscles Highlighted: Side Deltoid. Bring your arm across your body and lightly apply pressure to your arm to increase the stretch on your shoulder.

                  14. Standing Assisted Neck Flexion Stretch

                  Muscles Highlighted:Trapezius Muscle. Start by standing with you feet together. Keeping your spine long, slowly sit your hips back and round your upper back, tucking your chin to your chest at the same time.


                    15. Lat Stretch with Spinal Traction

                    Muscles Highlighted: Latissimus Dorsi. Start by taking a firm grip on bar, then slowly lift your feet off the ground. You should feel a stretch in your lats and chest. If you take your feet completely off the ground you will feel traction in your your lumbar spine.  Avoid this stretch if you have recently injured your shoulder, and/or have impingement of the shoulder.

                    16. Lat Stretch at the Wall

                    Muscles Highlighted: Latissimus Dorsi. Start by placing both hands on the corner of a wall or post.  While keeping your spine long, slowly push your hips out to the side. Avoid this stretch if you have lower back problems.


                      17. Child’s Pose

                      Muscles Highlighted: Latissimus Dorsi. Start on your hands and knees then slowly bring your hips back until your forehead is on the floor.  You can bring your knees wider to get a better stretch in your hips. Arch your upper back and externally rotate your shoulders to stretch your lats and chest muscles.

                      18. Standing Calf Stretch

                      Muscles Highlighted: Soleus and Gastrocnemius. You can perform this stretch on a rack or on the edge of a stair step. Lightly rotate your ankles internally and externally to actively stretch the calf muscles.


                        19. Front Split

                        Muscles Highlighted: Psoas and Hamstring. This is an advanced stretch, proceed with caution if you have any hip problems. Start in a kneeling lunge position, it can also be helpful to have the support of a chair as your hip flexors and hamstrings release.

                        20. Seated Forward Fold / Seated Toe Touch

                        Muscles Highlighted: Hamstrings and Calfs. Start by sitting into your sit bones and bend the knees if needed. As your flexibility improves your legs will naturally straighten. If you have back problems keep the spine as straight as possible. You can also perform this stretch lying on your back with your feet up a wall.



                          21. Single Leg Forward Bend

                          Muscles Highlighted: Hamstrings. Start this position with one foot in front of the other. Bring your hands to your hips and while keeping the back straight, begin to bend from the hips.

                          22. Deep Squat

                          Muscles Highlighted: Glutes. This movement has a global effect on all areas of your body. If you have bad knees, or cannot keep your heels on the ground, practice your squat before proceeding. Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart then slowly lower yourself into the deep squat. Once in position bring your arms inside your legs and lightly apply pressure to the inside of your knees, sitting into the hips and heels. You can also practice this position lying on your back with your feet against a wall.


                            23. Seated Half King Pigeon Pose

                            Muscles Highlighted: Glutes. Start in a seated position slowly pull your leg to your chest and externally rotate your hip while keeping your spine straight.  You should feel this stretch in your glute.

                            24. Standing Calf Stretch at the Wall

                            Muscles Highlighted: Soleus and Gastrocnemius. Start out in a lunge position with your back foot slightly turned out.  Slowly bring your back heel to the ground to stretch your calf muscles.


                              25. Lateral Flexion at the Wall

                              Muscles Highlighted: External Obliques. While keeping your spine long slowly push your hips out the the side.  Avoid this stretch if you have lower back problems.

                              26. Supine Twist

                              Muscles Highlighted: Glutes and External Obliques. This is a great stretch for those trying to manage Sciatic Pain.  Start by lying flat on your back then bring one leg across your body, slowly rotating your gaze and upper body in the opposite direction. The key to this stretch is using your breath to open up your rib cage and sacroiliac joint and hip area without placing too much pressure on the lower back.  If you find this stretch to be too difficult you can stack both of your knees on top of each other. Once in this position you will feel more of a stretch on the upper spine when the knees are higher, and more of a stretch on the lumbar spine when the knees are lower.


                                27. Lateral Flexion with a Dowel

                                Muscles Highlighted: External Obliques and Latissimus Dorsi. With your spine long, slowly push your hips out to the side while keeping your shoulders externally rotated. Avoid this stretch if you have lower back problems.

                                28. Triangle Pose

                                Muscles Highlighted: External Obliques. Start with a wide stance with your front foot straight ahead, and your back foot at 90 degrees. Place your hand on your front leg or floor as you sit back into your front hip with a straight back. As you rotate away from your front leg keep your gaze on the hand that is in the air.



                                  29. Chest Stretch at the Wall

                                  Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals. Start by facing the wall with your thumb up. Slowly rotate away from the wall to stretch your chest muscle. You should feel this stretch in the belly of the muscle.  If you feel it in the shoulder joint you are stretching too far.

                                  30. Assisted Chest Stretch

                                  Muscles Highlighted: Chest and Latissimus Dorsi. Start by lying on the floor with your palms facing up. As you partner sits into a deep squat you should feel a stretch in your chest and lats.  You will also get some traction in your spine from the stretch. Avoid this stretch if you have impingement of the shoulder.


                                    31. Seated Half Pigeon Variation

                                    Muscles Highlighted: Anterior Tibialis. Start by sitting with your feet in front of you. Bring one hand behind you as you externally rotate your hip and bring one foot above your knee. To increase the stretch on your hip slowly lean forward, initiating the movement by hinging at the hips.

                                    32. Supine Shoulder External Rotation Stretch

                                    Muscles Highlighted: Subscapularis. Start by lying flat on your back, bring your arm straight out to the side with your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Slowly bring the back of your hand to the floor. If you hand is far away from floor it means your rotator cuff and other muscles that control internal rotation are tight.


                                      33. Down Dog Variation at the Wall

                                      Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals and Latissimus Dorsi. Position yourself far enough from a wall or rack so that when you touch the wall your body becomes parallel to the ground.  Move into this position by hinging at the hips and keeping your spine straight.  Once in position, push your chest forward creating a slight arch in your upper back, stretching your lats and chest muscles. If you have tight hamstrings try bending at the knees.

                                      34. Assisted Chest Stretch Variation

                                      Muscles Highlighted: Pectorals. Start by lying face down on the floor with your palms facing down. As your partner pulls back on your hands you will feel a deep stretch in your chest muscles. Avoid this stretch if you have impingement of the shoulder.

                                        Photo credit: Source

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                                        Last Updated on August 20, 2019

                                        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

                                        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

                                        Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

                                        Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

                                        I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

                                        You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

                                        Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

                                        When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

                                        I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

                                        Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

                                        Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

                                        Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

                                        1. The Inner Critic

                                        This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

                                        • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
                                        • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
                                        • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
                                        • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

                                        The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

                                        Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

                                        2. The Worrier

                                        This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

                                        The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

                                        3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

                                        This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.


                                        This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

                                        The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

                                        4. The Sleep Depriver

                                        This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

                                        The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

                                        • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
                                        • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
                                        • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
                                        • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

                                        How can you control these squatters?

                                        How to Master Your Mind

                                        You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

                                        Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

                                        There are two ways to control your thoughts:

                                        • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
                                        • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

                                        This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

                                        The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

                                        Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

                                        For the Inner Critic

                                        When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

                                        You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

                                        For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

                                        You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:


                                        “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

                                        If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

                                        • They rile up the Worrier.
                                        • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
                                        • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
                                        • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
                                        • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

                                        Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

                                        Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

                                        For the Worrier

                                        Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

                                        Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

                                        You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

                                        • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
                                        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                                        • Muscles tense

                                        Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

                                        If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

                                        Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

                                        “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

                                        Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

                                        If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

                                        Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

                                        Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.


                                        For example:

                                        If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

                                        “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

                                        Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

                                        “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

                                        Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

                                        For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

                                        Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

                                        The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

                                        • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
                                        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                                        • Muscles tension

                                        I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

                                        Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

                                        Breathe in through your nose:

                                        • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
                                        • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
                                        • Focus on your belly rising.

                                        Breathe out through your nose:

                                        • Feel your lungs emptying.
                                        • Focus on your belly falling.
                                        • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

                                        Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

                                        Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

                                        One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.


                                        Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

                                        For the Sleep Depriver

                                        (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

                                        I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

                                        Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

                                        1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
                                        2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

                                        When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

                                        From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

                                        For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

                                        If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

                                        You can also use this technique any time you want to:

                                        • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
                                        • Shut down your thinking.
                                        • Calm your feelings.
                                        • Simply focus on the present moment. 

                                        The Bottom Line

                                        Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

                                        You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

                                        Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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                                        Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via

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