Yoga is, in my book, the best way to relieve tension anywhere in the body or the mind. Yoga, practised regularly, relaxes muscle tension, while strengthening them too.
Here is a list of poses that would help relieve tension around the shoulder area:
1. Balasana – child’s pose
Child’s pose is a very good way to start a practice or a rest pose during a vigorous flow. Coming to hands and knees, press your hips back into your heels. Open the knees a little and then rest your belly and chest on your thighs. Arms beside you, palms up. Allow your shoulders to melt downward. This is a gentle way to start warming the shoulders.
2. Bharadvajasana I – seated twist
Sit upright with legs extended in front of you. Now tuck the heels in next to the left hip. Drawing a breath in, turn your shoulders to the right. Idea here is to stay gently grounded in the sitbones while extending the spine upward. With an inhale lift and with an exhale, turn a little more. Keep your gaze over your right shoulder. Try to keep your shoulders at the same height and the neck soft. Chin is either in neutral or for a slight added stretch in the neck, tuck the chin. Hold for a few breaths. Come centre, tuck heels next to the right hip and turn the other way.
3. Supta Baddha Konasana – reclining goddess
This is a wonderful pose I often use in both yin and vinyassa (yang) classes. This pose offers a stretch across the chest and release in the shoulders. Lying on your back, put a bolster or a block between the shoulder blades. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall open. (If that is too intense, just leave the legs long and resting on the mat.) Rest your arms by your sides. You will notice if you turn your palms up that will increase the rotation in the shoulders. Support your head or if it feels good allow your head to drop back – this will stimulate the thyroid.
4. Prasarita Padottanasana – wide legged forward fold
Standing with your legs wide, slightly turn your toes inward. Bring your hands to behind your back and interlace your fingers. (If that is not accessible to you, hold a towel or a strap between your hands.) With an inhale, lift your chest and roll your shoulders back, extending the hands backward. On the exhale bend forward, keeping your knees as bent as much as you need. Allow gravity to draw your hands over your head. This creates a lovely rotation in the shoulders. Hold this pose for at least eight breaths.
5.Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – bridge pose
Lie down on your back and bend your knees, feet hip width and on the mat. Breathe out, press your feet into the mat and raise your buttocks, lifting the sternum towards the chin. Elongate the back of the neck into the floor and breathe deeply. Reach for your feet with your hands, while rolling on to your shoulders. Keep your head still with your nose pointing up and gently press the back of your head into the mat, all the while lifting the hips. This can be done supported – with your hands under your hips, or a block. As you breathe and your body starts opening, try to walk your shoulders closer to each other and reach your hands towards your feet. This will help open the chest. Move your chest toward your chin. This pose is also great for calming the mind.
6. Supported Forward Bend
This pose is meant to release and relax your neck. With your legs crossed, sit on the floor in front of a seat and place a pillow in the seat. Pull the chair towards you and rest your head on the pillow, with your arms just under your forehead. Gently stretch the neck muscles by dropping the chin to the chest and breath in and out while resting your head on the pillow.
7. Ghomukasana arms
This pose is great for helping to correct posture where we have rounded shoulders and chin moving forward – this is what happens when we sit in front of a computer! Sit up straight, legs extended. Lift your left arm straight up, palm turned inward and thumb pointing to the back. Bend that arm and reach down between the shoulder blades. Now extend your right arm to the side, thumb down and palm facing back. Bend the arm, bring the elbow in to the side and reach up between the shoulder blades. Take a hold of the other hand. If this is a little hard, use a strap between the hands. Lift your heart and press into your sitbones. Keep your chin in neutral and the neck soft.
8. Savasana – corpse pose
This pose is often used in meditation as the intention is to relax completely. Lie on your back, arms by your sides. Spread your feet apart and allow them to drop open. Arms are by your sides, palms up. Allow your fingers to curl up naturally. Lift your shoulders, broaden them and then let them melt into the mat. Breathe deep, smooth breaths. Support your body where you need to. Sometimes a bolster under the knees feels good, or between the shoulder blades.
9. Yoga off the mat
When you are sitting down, come to the tops of your sitbones, gently draw your belly in. Lift your heart and allow your shoulders to slide down your back. Keep your chin in neutral and a good distance between the ears and shoulders. This is a good posture to hold when you are standing or walking too. Keep the tailbone gently tucked under.
Keep moving your body! It is joyful, gives us energy and keeps us healthy.
Namaste – Amanda