Our day-to-day routines often have us staring down at phones or hunched over laptops, leaving chest muscles contracted forward and necks in pain.  To realign our upper bodies, we need to open through the chest and shoulders and lengthen the spine. Check with your physician before beginning new exercises. Here are a couple of yoga postures to help release upper body tension.

Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana):

 This standing pose utilizes muscles in the entire body to stabilize balance, yet it also is an effective opener of the chest and shoulders.  While it strengthens the lower body and opens hip flexors, it helps to expand the spine, lengthen back of neck, and broaden through the chest and collarbone.

Instructions:

  • Begin standing with feet parallel, hip width apart.
  • Lunge Right leg back, keeping both feet parallel and hips facing forward.
  • Extend through Right heel and engage both feet into the mat to activate muscles through both legs.
  • Left knee is bent and in alignment above the ankle.
  • Tailbone moves downward while hip bones move towards the ceiling to extend the spine.
  • Back of neck is tall with chin remaining level.
  • Arms sweep upward while shoulder blades draw down the back to widen the collarbone.
  • Biceps reach back by your ears with slight rotation forward.
  • Hold for 5-10 steady breaths.
  • Repeat on other side.

Variations: Lower back knee to the mat and uncurl back toes.

Cactus arms if neck and shoulders are tight.

Camel (Ustrasana): 

Camel offers a deep opening of the front body while strengthening the back.  Repeated practice can stimulate intestinal organs and bring better alignment to the spine.

Instructions:

  • Begin kneeling with legs parallel and hip width apart.
  • Draw inner thighs backwards while firming glute muscles to protect the lower back.
  • Reach palms to the back just above buttocks, fingers pointing downward.
  • Engage shins and top of feet to mat.
  • Hips move upward and forward.
  • Shoulder blades extend down ribcage while collarbone expands, heart lifts.
  • Be mindful to elongate through back of neck to protect the spine.
  • Breathe deep and steady.
  • You can remain here or deepen the pose by grabbing inside of heels.
  • Resist compressing through the spine.
  • Hold 5-10 breaths then return hands to base of spine. Tuck chin to chest rounding forward into Child’s Pose for a counter stretch.

    By Kristi Grosse, RYT

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