If there's one part of the body where nearly all of us could stand to loosen up, it's the shoulders. Our lifestyles now center around a computer, steering wheel or mobile device that leaves us in a hunched-over position, causing stress to our neck and shoulder muscles. I know I'm feeling it just typing this article! Moreoever, many of us carry emotional stress in these areas, resulting in tightness and discomfort.
Luckily, yoga instructor Mary Catherine Starr has four simple moves designed to alleviate your tight shoulders. Best of all, these can be performed at your desk and take just eight minutes. I did these myself and feel much more relaxed!
1. Shoulder and neck rolls
You've most likely done these before, but this time, sit quietly, be mindful and breathe. You'll be amazed at the difference.
1. Lengthen your spine and inhale as you lift your shoulders forward and up toward your ears, then exhale as you slowly lower and roll them back down.
2. Repeat several times, then switch directions and inhale as you lift them back and up, then exhale as you lower them forward and down.
1. Keeping your spine long and your shoulders down, exhale and lower your chin down to your chest.
2. Inhaling, roll your head to your right and hold for a few seconds.
3. Exhale, roll your chin back to your chest and repeat on the left side.
4. To take it deeper, you can bring your hand to the side of your head and using your hand as a weight, hold for a few moments and breathe. Be sure to keep your shoulders pressing down.
These quick, simple moves will help alleviate tension in your neck and shoulders.
2. Eagle arms
This pose will give you a nice stretch between your shoulder blades, a problem area for many individuals.
1. Stretch your arms out wide on either side of your body.
2. Bring your arms forward, crossing your right arm over your left.
3. Bend your elbows so your arms come upwards and your hands meet. You can either touch the backs of your hands together or wrap them so your palms touch, whichever is more comfortable.
4. Keep your elbows at shoulder height, then begin circling your arms clockwise, then counterclockwise.
5. You can also play with moving your arms up and taking a little backbend, then rounding your spine forward with your arms still intertwined.
6. Repeat on the other side, crossing your left arm over the right.
3. Cow face arms
No idea where "cow face" comes from, but this pose will give you increased power and flexibility in your shoulders.
1. Reach your right arm up toward the sky with your elbow near your ear.
2. Keeping your arm in the air, bend the elbow and lower your forearm until your hand reaches your spine between your shoulder blades.
3. Reach the left arm down and around behind you until your left hand meets the right. Clasp your fingers together if you can.
4. If you are unable to interlock your fingers, you can simply bring your left hand to your right elbow and press it back and down.
5. Or, you can hold on to a strap (a scarf or belt works as well) with both hands.
Engage your core and keep a neutral spine.
4. Interlacing hands behind back
This pose expands your chest and relieves tension in your upper back.
1. Reach behind your back with both arms and interlace your hands with your palms pressed toward each other.
2. Begin to straighten your arms behind you, stopping at the point just before your elbows lock.
3. Pull your belly in, lift your heart and begin to fold forward, keeping your palms pressed toward each other. As you lower, begin to reach your hands over your head and toward the front of the room. Take a few breaths and gently shake your head to relieve tension.