It’s been awhile since I’ve included an actual sequence in my posting, so this week I decided to focus on a favorite series of poses, shoulder-openers. The poor upper back—it often bears the physical manifestations of our mental stress, such as tight shoulders, stiff necks and slouched postures. In June, I discussed how sitting tall and breathing can be relaxing, but here are some poses you can also do to open these areas and relieve some of the tension. They are especially nice at the end of the day.
Shoulder Opening Sequence
Sukhasana-Sit with the spine completely aligned and let the breath help you release any tension you are holding in your shoulders. Notice how the shoulders start to drop away from the ears as the neck softens and you settle into the pose.
Neck stretch-With the torso aligned, let the weight of the right hand anchor the body as you gently stretch your head to the left, lengthening the muscles along the side of the neck and top of the shoulder. Gently use pull the head farther left with your left hand on top of the head. Then, rotate your head slightly forwards so the stretch moves into the upper back. Change sides.
Hastasana-Keep the shoulders away from the ears as you lift your arms overhead. After your initial stretch, bend the elbows slightly and let your palms come further overhead to deepen the rotation in the shoulder joints. Try to straighten the arms. To stretch the legs, sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) or Virasana (Hero Pose).
Balancing Cat-On all fours, stretch to opposite right hand and left foot away from each other, making a straight line from the fingers through the torso and to the toes. Lower that arm and leg. Now switch hands and legs. This engages muscles in both the front and back body.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)-Let your inhales help you as you lift the palms and the soles of the feet off the mat from a prone position. This increases the work of the torso, because the muscles of the rib cage help you lift. Keep your awareness in the muscles on either side of the spine and lengthen the neck as the fingers and toes stretch away from each other.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)-This pose is sort of the opposite of locust, because now you are grounding through the hands and feet while lifting the tailbone up. Enjoy the stretch in the shoulders and backs of the calves. To deepen the rotation of the shoulders, you can rest your heels against the wall, about 4-5” above the floor, and let the front of the body sink a bit deeper.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)-Come down to the floor from Dog, but keep the hands stretched out in front of you at first. Press the tips of the fingers to the floor and lift the palms of the hands—notice the stretch behind the shoulder blades. Then rest the hands on the floor, or relax the arms along side the body.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall Pose). Lie on the floor with the backs of your legs and hips resting against the wall and the feet lined up over the hips. Feel the pressure draining out of your feet and ankles. Keep the spine long as you relax the back into the support of the floor. Stay in this relaxing pose as long as you like.
This is going to be my last posting for a couple of weeks, because I’m going to in
While I’m gone, think about what sorts of poses and discussions you’d like to read about on this blog. Do you want more general sequences for home practice? Specific poses for different muscle groups? I haven’t heard much from any one out there and would like some feedback. If you’re shy, don’t worry, I have the comments section set up so I read any messages before they are posted and can delete those you don’t want published. Let me know what you think and if you have any requests.
Stay cool (as if that’s ever in question) and I’ll be back in a few weeks!
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