Sometimes we say the phrase “I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders,” because that is exactly how we feel. We learn through yoga teacher training that when we have stress building up in our bodies one of its favorite places to go and sit is in our shoulders. This causes us to slump or feel hunched forward, which is a posture that can lead to head and neck pain. There are some yoga poses that help stretch and strengthen the shoulders and they are a great fix for shoulder tightness and tension.
Some things that you can try doing on a normal routine to eliminate shoulder trouble are listed below:
Shoulder to Ears
This shoulder to ears stretch is something that you can do anywhere and at any time. Inhale as you raise your shoulders up as far as you can and then release with an “aahh” sound. Repeat as needed.
Should circles help to relieve the tension in your body and maintain flexibility? Yoga teachers will have you raise your shoulders and then draw them back down forward and up again in a circular motion. Repeat this several times and then move them in the opposite direction.
If you practice shoulder stretches using a strap it will help improve flexibility in your shoulders. Begin in a sitting position and pull the strap tight with both hands held out straight in front of you. During an inhale, bring your arms straight over your head and then exhale as you drop your arms behind your head as far as is comfortable. Repeat this exercise in a slow controlled manner timed to your breathing. If you cannot have your arms straight ask your yoga teacher how to modify the pose with the strap position.
This pose helps you to open your shoulder while strengthening your core, arms and legs at the same time. Start on all fours and drop your forearms to the floor. Make sure to straighten your legs so that your sitting bones are reaching to the ceiling. Your body should appear in a V shape with your head, buttocks and feet. If you need to modify this pose keep your knees bent and your heels off the floor. Continue to press your forearms into the floor while keeping your head between your upper arms. Hold this pose for 60 seconds and release on an exhale to the floor.
Cow Face Pose
This pose helps give you a stretch for your shoulders as well as the hips and chest. Begin in a cross legged position and bring your right knee over your left knee trying to keep equal weight on both sitting bones. Extend your left arm to the ceiling and bend your left elbow while bringing your hand down the center of your back. Then extend your right arm out to the side of you and bend your right elbow while sending your right hand up the center of your back until hands clasp. Remain in this pose for one minute then release and do the opposite arms and reverse your leg position.
There are also some great shoulder yoga poses that are taught in yoga teacher training that focus on opening up the shoulders and taking away the tension. Some of these are:
Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend
This pose will help stretch and open the shoulders while stretching and strengthening your legs. You begin by facing the long side of your yoga mat and step your feet to be three feet wide. Your toes need to be facing forward and parallel with each other. Slowly clasp your hands at your lower back. Use you abdominal and leg muscle to bend forward at your hips bring your head, upper body and arms toward the ground. Make sure your hands are far enough over to feel the stretch deep into your shoulders. Release any tension in your neck and allow your head to hand freely. Hold for up to five breaths.
Revolved Side Angle Pose
This pose will help loosen your spinal muscles and help open your shoulders. You should be in a high lunge position with your right leg in front and bent at 90 degrees while your left leg is behind you. Spin your left heel to the ground so your toes point at a 90 degree angle to the left side. Twist your torso to the left which opens your chest so that your left shoulder is on top of the right. Put your right elbow on your right knee and extend your left arm forward and above the left ear. This should create a straight line from the left hand to the left foot. Hold this position for five breaths and repeat on the other side.
Yoga teacher training will help incorporate poses and exercises which will stretch and open your shoulders and loosen the muscles in your neck and back. We need to take care of our bodies.