As technology developed over the years, many of us are spending our days sitting in a chair in some way- some of us as students, some of us in an office or freelancers working from home.
Being hunched over a chair sure does help us be more productive to ourselves and society, but in the long run it causes the shoulders to tense, giving us that closed off look and pain in all the upper back and shoulder area.
As yogis this becomes a greater obstacle, as we work on many poses that require our shoulders to be open; from flexibility poses like wheel and bow, to arm balances like handstands and forearm balances. The lack of shoulder flexibility halts our progress and causes frustration and injuries as we work other parts too hard instead of using our entire body as a whole healthy unit.
Here are some exercises that will help you open these shoulders, but please advise that they should be practiced when you’re warmed up and never go over your comfort limit, as they should be used to open and not to tear.
Reverse Namaste Hands
Start in a sitting or standing position and take the hands back to Namaste, all fingers touching. Press the palms gently to the back and then lean on them gently with the back.
Take a few deep inhales and exhales and release gently.
Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)
Start on all fours with the back straight, sucking in the lower belly, shoulders above the wrists and hips above the knees. Inhale and raise the right hand straight towards the ceiling, exhale and take it under the left arm, right arm straight and palm facing up. Keep the hips facing forward; the twist should come only from the upper side of the body. Relax into the shoulder.
Take a few deep inhales and exhales and repeat on the second side.
Cow Face Arms (Gomukhasana)
Start in relaxed sitting position or with legs crossed over, knees facing the front of the mat and feet close to the body. Raise the right hand straight towards the ceiling, palm facing the back of the room. Bend it at the elbow and hook the fingers of both hands. The left elbow should be directed to the floor and the right at the ceiling. Look straight or up without crunching the neck. Take a few deep inhales and exhales and repeat on the second side.
Wide Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana C)
Enlace the hands behind the back, inhale and lift them towards the sky, exhale move them straight over the headtowards the floor.
– Work on keeping the legs strong and shoulders soft-don’t force the hands to the floor.
– Suck the lower belly in and move the hips forward over the hills.
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Take a small step away from the wall and place the arms up, shoulder width, with shoulders relaxed and not crunching around the ears. The head should be looking up, if possible chin on the wall but without crunching it. If it hurts just place your forehead on the wall. Stay here for 5-10 breaths, trying to lower the head and hands a little with each breath.
Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pinch Mayurasana)
Set the arms on the floor and hug the elbows in order to measure the right distance between the hands. Place the hands on the mat. Lift the legs like in Downward Facing Dog: they could be bent,but if they are straight try walking them closer to the forearms. Press up from your palms and shoulders and work on moving your shoulders above the elbows.
** The next 2 exercises should be practiced when your lower back is warmed up.
Bow Pose Without Flipping the Grip (Dhanurasana)
Start in Locust pose, inhale and swing the hands back to grab the shins, and keep them close to one another. Lean back and up with every inhale. Start by lying on the stomach and leaning on the elbows. Lift and stretch the hands on the floor in front of you, fingers spread and hands in an angle.
– The legs and bum should be relaxed.
– Keep the gaze straight and the chest pushing forward.
– Try staying here for 5 breaths. Don’t panic If it hurts, just come gently down.
Hands Pressing Against the Wall
Stand about an arms’distance away from the wall and face away from it. Inhale and lift the hands up and stretch, exhale and take the arms above you and place the hands on the wall. Take the head back as long as it doesn’t hurt the neck. Breathe into the shoulders and start pushing the arms straight with the legs strong in place. If the hands detach from the wall it means the shoulders aren’t open enough, so stay where you are and breathe. Stay here for 5-10 breaths and come out slowly, head up last.
Have fun and most importantly keep safe!
Written by Shani