Who here doesn’t suffer from upper body aches, pains and knots? We have all developed a bit of a desk hunch, a severe case of purse shoulder, or the baby wearing slouch at one point or another.
These six poses will help you tackle whatever ails you in the neck, shoulders and upper back.
This is your practice so move through these poses at your own pace. Holding for as long as it feels good to you.
Try not to focus on what it should look like, use my pictures only as guidance. Whatever shape your body is in, is the perfect shape for it right now.
Let your breath be your guide, it will tell you whether you need to go deeper or pull out of a pose.
These poses are pulled from a 30 minute yin yoga video I uploaded a while back, but they hold up. If you want some guidance moving through them, find the full video here.
Grab a set of blocks and get ready for a nice slow soft stretch.
1. Puppy pose – Come into a table top pose, with hips stacked on top of the knees. Start to walk your hands forward as you drop the chest and forehead to the mat (or a block if that’s appropriate). Keep your abdominals engaged so as to not curve your low back. Find some softness through your upper back. You can also take a variation of this pose, bringing your forearms on to a set of blocks. In this altered pose, clap your hands together, bend the elbows and point your fingertips towards the rear.
2. Shoelace pose (with optional forward fold) – From seated, cross your right thigh over the left, stack the knees and flex your feet. Reach the left arm up, bending at the elbow to place the hand on the upper back. Let your right hand rest on the ground, or reach it under and back to clasp the other hand. Leaving your bottom as is, bring the hands forward. Bending at the elbows cross the right arm over the left. Take a single bind (hands back to back) or a double bind (hands palm to palm); finding eagle arms. Stay here sitting tall, or fold forward. Slowly unravel your limbs and make the switch to the reverse configuration (i.e. left thigh over right).
3. Sphinx – Laying flat on your belly with your forearms on the mat about shoulder distance. Lift your chest up, while keeping the toes rested on the mat. Instead of focusing on how deep you can lift the upper body, try to shine your heart forward. Adjust the pose as needed by walking the elbows in or sliding forward to reduce intensity.
4. Low lunge with an arm stretch – Step your right foot forward, lowering the left knee to the ground and making your way into a low lunge. Folding the mat in for added knee support if needed. Roll the shoulders down and away from your ears. Reach the left arm across the body and grab hold of the wrist with the opposite hand. Hugging the arm in towards the chest. Sink deeper into your hips, while staying long in the low back and maintaining integrity in the pelvis. Repeat with the left leg forward and right arm crossing the front body.
5. Thread the needle – Make your way first into a table top position. Then slide the left arm under and across, finding a resting place with your left shoulder and cheek on the mat. Place your right hand on your sacrum to open the chest deeper towards the right. Settle in here with deep belly breaths. Press the belly button towards the spine and your shoulder away from the ear, checking your hips are still aligned over your knees. Don’t forget to even the body out by doing this pose on the opposite side.
6. Supported fish pose – Take a moment to set your blocks up. The first will rest long ways between the shoulder blades on the first or second level. The second will sit horizontally below the head on the first or middle level. Slowly lower yourself down onto the blocks, adjusting as needed. There should be no pinching feeling in the low back. Legs can stretch out long, or if you would like a hip opener find butterfly legs as I have done here. Let your arms rest at your sides or reach them over and behind you on the floor. Slowly soften into the ground.
Need some suggestions on how long to hold each of these poses? Follow along with my Yin Yoga for Neck, Shoulder & Upper Back Tension video below.
Cheers to upper body relief,
Yoga with Kassandra – Disclaimer
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