This practice is done mostly while sitting with your legs crossed or on your heels if crossing your legs isn’t comfy. No mat needed!
I want to tell you a little story about my shoulders that you just might be able to relate to…
When I was working as an educator years ago, my hours were around 16 hours a day. I traveled for 3 hours daily and was living life with a high stress factor. Luckily, I really loved what I was doing but I was paying the price for long hours by having very little personal time. Though I was always active, there was just no time! So I thought I’d try something else that could be healthy- At the time detox cleanses were all the rage. I thought I would try one out since I could augment my diet and clean it up without interfering with my job. It Actually turned out to be really tough. I had to cut coffee, which left me with a three day headache, eww! After the haze lifted, I started to feel okay again. I was quite a different person though, LoL! So much more quiet and less bubbly were the first things I noticed about myself. Not bad things, just very different. I started to pay more attention to myself in other ways as well.
I was walking around with my shoulders up ALL THE TIME.
I sat at my computer and worked with them tensed up like this. I walked around the school this way, I took transit home, still tiring myself out by subconsciously holding my shoulders up. I had frequent headaches and felt tension in my shoulders, but thought it was from carrying my laptop bag around and general stress. Wow, once I noticed how this little habit had crept into my daily living, I was kind of shocked at how much I was doing it and above all, how completely OBLIVIOUS I was! I started reminding myself to relax my shoulders every time I noticed I was doing it.
I think I reminded myself around 35 times a day the first week.
Just imagine the times I didn’t notice! Anyways, I felt much better after doing this for just 2 weeks. After about 1 month, I had trained myself to function without the raised shoulders. The amount of stress and tension I had released with this simple change in my daily posture changed much about how my body felt in general. It’s amazing how expending energy and creating needless stress can affect the body, especially when you notice the change once it’s removed!
Why am I telling you about this craziness?
Well, for many of us, a computer or a desk is a daily reality. I thought it might be a good idea to share a little yoga sequence geared towards relaxing the shoulders and giving yourself a free therapeutic yoga session! I can’t be the only one who has created significant tension in this area of my body;)
So when you finish up work for the day and want to gear down in a healthy and positive way, give this targeted and easy sequence a go!
Put on some comfy clothes, NO MAT NECESSARY! Just a couple of fluffy pillows or if you have them- 2 yoga blocks.
Yoga For Shoulder Tension
Start in a seated position with your legs crossed. Sitting as tall as you can, take a few deep breaths to begin relaxing yourself. Close your eyes if this helps you to chill out. Then when you are ready, start with some shoulder rolls, go back into a circular motion slowly 5 times and then slowly forward 5 times.
Roll out your neck by letting your chin fall toward your chest and then inhale as you circle to the right, exhaling as you come around again. You can let your head go back if it is comfortable or simply bring your head through a half circle, letting your neck remain up straight as you bring your head up from your starting side. Do 5 slowly to the right with deep inhales and exhales and then repeat this process going to the left.
Interlace Finger Stretch
Now take your hands in front of you, interlace your fingers and turn your palms out. Send your arms up towards the sky. Hold here and take 5 deep breaths. Then open them and let them come down to the floor. Now take your arms behind you, interlace your fingers and tip your body forward, letting your arms come up. Hold for 5 breaths and then come back to sitting and let your hands come to your sides on the floor.
Elbow Hold Stretch
Bring your hands to opposite elbows behind you, bring your chin down towards your chest and hold for 10 breaths. This stretch is a bit more passive and it feels very good with the internal rotation of the arms while letting everything relax into the stretch here.
Side Body Stretch
Take your right arm and lift it up, stretch up and over to the left, letting your left hand walk away from you as you lengthen to the side. Try to keep both seat bones on the ground. Lift the chest, hold your low belly back. Hold for 5 breaths, then come back to the middle and do the left arm up, stretching to the right. After your 5 deep breaths, let your arms come down to rest on your knees.
Bring your right hand behind your back, palm on the floor as close to your spine as possible. Bring your left hand to your right knee. Now take a deep breath in- as you exhale, twist and turn your head to look over your right shoulder. Take 5 slow deep breaths here and then return to centre. Repeat for other side, taking the left palm behind your back as close to your spine as possible. Right hand to left knee this time. After your deep inhale, twist as your exhale and look over your left shoulder. After your 5 breaths, come back to centre.
Eagle Arm Stretch
Now take your hands in front of you, cross the right over the left and turn your palms towards you. Now cross your wrists with the right one away from you and see if you can bring your palms towards each other. They don’t have to be lined up. Deep breath in and raise the elbows up until you feel the stretch and hold for 5 deep breaths. Then bring them down, letting your back curl up and your elbows come down towards your abdomen. Breath deep for 5 breaths here and then come up and shake your arms out! Now try the other side with the left arm crossing over the right, palms turn towards you. Cross your wrists with the left one behind and try to bring your palms towards each other. Repeat lifting elbows up, then elbows down with a curled back and then come up and give your arms another shake!
Cow Face Arms
For this pose, you can take a pillow case or other bit of fabric to hold if your hands don’t reach each other in the pose. This one is a real stretch, so give it a try with your prop first and then give the full on posture a go! So grab your pillow case near the end with your right hand and raise your arm straight up next to your ear. Now bend at the elbow only and bring your hand towards the base of your neck on your back. Take your left arm now and have it down, internally rotated so you can reach for the pillow case which is hanging down your back. Use your hand to walk up the case, bending at the elbow as far as you feel is comfortable. Sit tall, keep your head up straight and breath deep for 5 breaths. Now let go of the prop and shake out your arms. Let’s do the other side! Take your pillow case near the end in your left hand, raising it up beside your ear. Bend at the elbow and bring your hand towards the base of your neck on your back. Take your right arm now, rotate the arm in so as you reach behind you for the pillow case, it is positioned correctly. Walk your hand up the pillow case a small far as is comfortable and do your 5 breaths. Shake those arms out!
If you want to give it a try, do it without the prop. When you walk your left hand up on the first side, you can press it into your back to move up and grab the fingers on your right hand. Same fo the left side. It is an intense stretch so be careful when attempting this version:)
Cat & Cow Pose
Come to table pose. Hips over knees and shoulders over hands. Now inhale, as you exhale, round your back (into cat) and press your hands firmly into the ground. As you inhale, let your tummy collapse down (into cow) and bring your head up. Do this dynamic stretch 5 times while exhaling into cat and inhaling into cow.
Come down onto your elbows and bring palms down. Let your chest come towards the floor as you extend your arms away from you into puppy pose. You will feel this stretch in your shoulders and under your armpits. Hold for 10 breaths, passively breathe into this pose, walking your fingers away as far as is comfortable. Let your head comfortably lay on the mat.
Thread The Needle
Come up to table pose again and this time bring your right arm behind your left hand and begin to lower your shoulder down to the mat. Let your left arm extend forward and feel a nice stretch on your right shoulder. Hold for 5 deep breaths and then come back up to table and let your left arm come behind your right hand, bringing that shoulder down onto the ground. Same length in the right arm and hold for 5 breaths before coming back up.
Shoulder Release with Prop
You should be back into table top pose once your prop is in place. If you have 2 blocks, set them up shoulder width apart on the long side down (on the lowest level) and place your elbows on them. Bring your palms together. Let your head come down towards the floor. If you don’t have blocks, get a fluffy pillow or 2 and put your elbows on that. It will be a softer stretch, but maybe that’s just what you need! After 5 deep breaths, slowly come out of the pose and put your prop off to the side. If you were using a pillow, bonus! You can put it under your head for the next pose:)
Slowly lay down on your back with your palms up and feet resting outwards in savasana. Relax for 5 minutes or more as you wish.
How do those shoulders feel now? I bet they feel loose and the tension you had is long gone! So easy! So quick! And the way your body will feel if you do just this shoulder sequence a couple of times a week will make a big difference! Hope you had fun with me!