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Do you spend the majority of your day doing one of these three tasks (or some combination of): sitting at a desk, driving, or carrying small children? You are not alone! These common time consumers bring with them an inevitable upper body tension. Tightness or even knots in the shoulders, and discomfort in the upper to mid back.
These 6 yin yoga poses will help you to increase your flexibility in this area, and provide relief from the common aches and pains.
With a yin practice, each pose should be held for between 2 and 5 minutes. Allowing yourself time to find your edge, where you feel some sensation but not pain. Get comfortable. Then hold the pose for the time you decide. And be still, avoid fidgeting as much as possible.
Have 2 blocks handy for this practice.
1. Bow Tie – Lay down on your belly, bringing a block horizontal in front of you where the forehead will be. Thread your arms so that the fingers reach in opposite directions, start with the right arm in front of the left one. Crossing the arms as far as they can go and separating the shoulder blades. Rest your forehead down to the block, testing which height is best for you, or maybe the floor. Keep the palms facing up. Drop your shoulders down and away from the ears.
2. Sphinx – From the last pose, slide your forearms to the ground in front of you. Lining up the elbows with the shoulders, and middle finger with the elbows. If you feel any pinching in the low back, walk elbows out further. Or alternatively, if you want to deepen the back bend, walk the elbows in closer. Keep the chin and chest elevated. Feeling the rib cage expand front to back and side to side as you breathe deeply. Shine the heart forward.
Return to bow tie pose with the opposite cross of the arms. Then take sphinx once more, or seal with arms straight in front of you and elbows lifted. Squeezing the shoulder blades back.
3. Puppy – Come up to hands and knees. Set the hips up over the knees, and take the knees to hip width apart. Leaving the bottom as it is, start to walk the hands forward. Melt the heart to the ground as you bring the forehead to rest on the ground or on a block. Your arms can stay extended in front of you. Or you have the option to bring the hands together, bending the elbows and bringing the thumbs to the back of the neck. Send the breath in to the back body. Keep the low belly engaged, to protect the low back from dropping down.
4. Laying Chest Opener – Lay down on to the belly. Bend your right arm at a 90 degree angle. Setting up so that the palm is in line with the elbow, elbow is in line with the shoulders. Start to roll on to your right side body (hip, shoulder and ear). If the head lifts from the mat here, you may want to bring a block underneath the head. Leave the left hand down in front of you, helping you ease in to the position, or bring the hand to the low back. You may leave the knees bent and legs stacked, or perhaps step the left foot back behind you. When the time is up, ease back on to your belly, then gently switch sides.
5. Thread the Needle – Making your way to table top, set the hips up over the knees. Engage the core. Then reach your right arm underneath you until your shoulder and ear lower down to a block or directly to the floor. Use your left hand to push into the floor to deepen in to the twist. Or extend the left arm out in front of you, pushing in to the fingertips. Check in with the hips that they haven’t shifted forward or to the side. When you’re ready, slide the hand in, pushing in to the palm to come up to table top. You may want to take a few rounds of cat/cow here. Then switch sides.
6. Supported Fish – Find a seat and grab hold of your blocks. Setting them up on the mat. Place the first block where your upper back will be, so it will rest between the shoulder blades. Then set your second block up so it will support the back of the head. Playing with height combination here. Gently ease your way down to laying on the blocks. You have a few options for the legs, you may leave the knees bent and soles of feet on the ground. You might extend the legs long. Or your might bring the feet together as you drop the knees out to the side. Your arms may rest at your sides, or to take a deeper stretch you might try extending them up overhead. However, if you feel any sort of tingling or numbness you have gone too far. Listen to your body.
Before getting up off your mat, give yourself 5 minutes or more of savasana. A time to digest all the work you’ve done, or do a body scan to notice any differences now from when you first stepped on your mat.
Prefer being guided through the transitions? Practice along with me in the video below.
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