Slouching and rounding our shoulders forward has become a cultural norm, be it sitting at a desk, looking at a cell phone, driving, hanging out on the couch, etc. Habitually rounding the upper back and shoulders can permanently affect our anatomical structure causing chronic pain, especially in our neck and lower back. It can also affect our mood, bringing up feeling such as fear, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Not only can we experience health issues due to anatomical misalignment, but our upper body – especially our neck and shoulders – are places where we tend to hold a lot of stress.The following simple chair yoga stretches can counterbalance these negative effects leaving your spine in better alignment, your mood brighter and less tension in your upper body. Try them out anywhere, anytime – be it on a bus, on the couch, at your desk, etc. – to help you feel more open and less stressed.
Upper Back Eagle Arm Stretch
Sit at the edge of your chair with your feet hip distance apart. Reach your arms directly out in front of you at the same height as your shoulders. Take your right elbow on top of the left and intertwine your forearms. If it is difficult or uncomfortable to intertwine the forearms, then hold onto the opposite shoulder with your hands.
Press your forearms or elbows forward as you broaden your upper back by separating your shoulder blades away from one another, press right behind your heart toward the wall behind you. Stay here or curl your elbows into your stomach. Breath into any knots in your upper back and neck, letting that tension go. Hold here for 30-60 seconds and change your arms, bringing the left elbow on top of the right, then come back to the center.
Tricep Shoulder Stretch
Keep seated at the edge of your chair. Reach the right arm up to the sky, bend your right elbow and take your right hand toward your upper back. Place your left hand on top of your right elbow. Press your right elbow into your left hand as you slightly press your left hand into your right elbow.Get as much length as you can from your right shoulder to your right elbow. Hold here for 30- seconds and change to the opposite side, then come back to the center.
This stretch is not recommended if you have bulging disks or other problems with your neck. If you’re sitting in a chair, take your right hand and hold onto the edge of your chair seat. If you’re on a bench or couch, walk your right fingers out to the right onto the seat. Take your left arm overhead and touch your right ear with your left fingertips. Take your left ear toward your left shoulder. Be gentle, do not push on your head!
If you are holding onto the chair seat, keep hold of the seat and lean your body slightly to the left until you get a deeper stretch on the right side of your neck. If you’re not holding onto the chair seat, keep walking your right fingers to the right until you get a stretch through the right side of your neck. Stay here for 30 seconds then change to the opposite side.
You can do this next stretch seated or standing. Separate your feet wider than your hips. Hold onto a belt, scarf or towel shoulder distance apart behind you.
If you don’t have something to hold onto, interlace your fingers at the base of your lower back. Fold forward taking your arms behind you toward the sky to open your shoulders. If you are standing, you’ll also feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Stay here for 20-30 seconds, then come back to the center.Practice these chair exercises.
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