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July 1, 2021

Look, I get it: The last thing you probably want to do after a tough strength workout or long run is, well, more work. However, taking just a few extra minutes after your exercise routine to focus on cooling down can make a world of difference, for your physical (and mental) well-being.

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Moving through some cool-down exercises and stretches will bring your heart rate back to its baseline, calm your mind post-endorphin high, and ease your body back into its natural resting state (among other benefits). Plus, going through these post-workout moves can help improve mobility and allow your body to recover more efficiently, therefore preventing unwanted injuries.

If those reasons aren't convincing enough, it honestly just feels ridiculously good to give your muscles a few blissful moments of self-care. For a truly efficient cool-down, opt for exercises that target the muscle groups you just worked (for example, go for some calf and hamstring stretches after a run). To get you started, I've put together some of my favorite exercises that will take you from revved up to cooled down:

1.

Knees-To-Chest

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  1. Lie down on your back, lifting shoulders slightly off the mat, with your legs extended.
  2. Hug one knee into your chest, hold for a moment, then return to start.
  3. Repeat on the opposite side.
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2.

World's Greatest Stretch

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  1. From a high plank position, step your right foot to the side of your left hand.
  2. Press your left hand into the ground, and bring your right hand overhead. Twist your body to the right side, and bring your gaze to the lifted fingertips.
  3. Reverse the movement, and repeat on the opposite side.
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3.

Forward Fold

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  1. Stand up tall with your arms reaching up to the sky.
  2. As you exhale, hinge at your hips, and fold your upper body forward, bending your knees if needed.
  3. Inhale, and come into a half lift. Then exhale and lower back down.
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4.

Seated One-Legged Forward Bend

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  1. Come to a seat on your mat. Extend your legs out in front of you.
  2. Bend your right knee, and bring the sole of your foot to your inner left thigh.
  3. Extend your arms up to the sky, then fold your torso over your legs.
  4. Hold for a couple of breaths, then switch legs, and repeat.
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5.

Happy Baby

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  1. Start by lying on your mat. From here, bend your knees, and bring them in toward your chest.
  2. Grab the outsides of your feet with your hands. Roll side to side for extra release.
  3. Come back to center, give your knees a hug, then come up to a seated position.
6.

Pigeon Pose

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  1. From downward dog, reach your right foot up to the sky.
  2. Bend your knee and bring it in line with your right arm. Bring your right foot to the left side, and allow your shin to rest on the ground.
  3. Bring your back leg down to the mat, and lift your chest.
  4. Hold for a breath, then slowly lower your torso to the ground so it folds over your right leg.
  5. You have the option to bring your forehead to the mat.
  6. Hold for as many breaths as you'd like, then peel your body back up. Come back into a downward dog, then repeat on the opposite side.
7.

Seated Spinal Twist

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  1. Come down to sit on your mat, crossing your legs.
  2. Inhale your arms up to the sky. Take your right arm, place it on the mat behind you, and place your left hand on your left knee. Take a deep breath in.
  3. As you exhale, twist the body, gazing over your left shoulder.
  4. Hold for a couple of breaths, then come back to center. Repeat on the opposite side.
8.

Cat-Cow

Image by mbg Creative / mbg Creative
  1. Come to all fours. Ground down through your palms.
  2. As you inhale, drop your belly, and bring your gaze up to the sky.
  3. As you exhale, curl and round your spine, and bring your gaze toward your belly button.
9.

Supine Spinal Twist

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  1. From a seated position, slowly lower all the way down to your mat.
  2. Bring your knees into your chest, and cross one leg over the other.
  3. Cactus your arms on the ground, and allow your knees to fall to the right side. Come back through center, and then allow them to fall to the left.
  4. Come back through center, and drop your knees to the right side once again. This time, gaze over the left shoulder. Hold for a few breaths, or as long as you need. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Hug your knees into your chest, then roll up to a seated position. Bend to your right, then your left, stretching the sides of your body. 
10.

Child's Pose

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  1. Come to a kneeling position on your mat, opening up your knees into a "V" shape.
  2. Slowly let your torso fold over your legs while stretching the arms out in front of you.
  3. Allow your forehead to rest on the mat, massaging your third eye, if you'd like.
11.

Half Wind-Relieving Pose

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  1. Come down to your mat, and lie on your back.
  2. Hug your right knee into your chest. Hold your knee close to you, and start to sway it side to side.
  3. Create circles with your knee, massaging out your belly.
12.

Seated Cat-Cow

Image by mbg creative
  1. Come to a seated position, crossing your legs in front of you. Place your hands gently on your knees.
  2. Inhale as you round out your back; create space in your spine.
  3. Exhale as your release the belly and bring the chest forward.
Kristine Thomason
Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director

Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen. Kristine is a New York University graduate with a degree in journalism and psychology, and also a NASM-certified personal trainer. She has spent her editorial career focused on health and well-being, and formerly worked for Women’s Health and Health. Her byline has also appeared in Men’s Health, Greatist, Refinery29, HGTV, and more. In her current role she oversees, edits, and writes for the health, food, and movement sections of mindbodygreen.