“Low back and neck pain is an increasingly widespread and expensive condition worldwide, costing the US alone $88bn a year—the third highest bill for any health condition—despite evidence most treatments do not work.”The Guardian
Eight out of ten people will experience neck or back pain in their lives. Those numbers are rising, as well as the cost of ineffective treatments—up nearly 300% over a period of 17 years.
I’ve worked width so many people that carry the burden of life on their shoulders—literally. Add to that how much time we spend sitting at computers and the poor posture developed from prolonged smartphone use, and it’s no wonder everyone’s in pain!
I see this so often with my clients that I wanted to share the following stretches. They’ll not only stretch out the muscles carrying tension but are low-impact and safe for the joints.
Seated Butterfly with Shoulder Stretches and Side Bend provides an optional hip opener by sitting in Butterfly pose. If this position of the legs is not accessible, use props under the knees for support or sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position or in a chair.
* Consult your healthcare provider prior to practicing if you have any fused discs in the cervical spine.
Shoulder Rolls are a very gentle and quick way to release tension in the neck and shoulders, anytime, anywhere. Practice these rolls on their own or before a posture to warm up and soften the shoulders or practice after a shoulder stretch to release the pose completely. Rolling the shoulders back helps open the chest and counter rounding forward. These rolls are a way to loosen that built-up stress and the tightened muscles in the chest and shoulders. Practice before and after Interlace Chest and Shoulder Stretch to relieve tension.
Interlace Chest and Shoulder Stretch
This basic chest and shoulder stretch is accessible at any time during the day and at any place. Practicing this stretch opens tight pectoral muscles and lengthens the front body. Lengthening these muscles automatically makes space in the chest and prevents rounding forward.
Opening the fronts of the shoulders counters a hunched forward position that develops over time, especially when sitting for long periods of time.
Breathe into the heart space and center yourself. Open the energies of compassion, love and appreciation uniting body, mind and spirit.
These gentle stretches for the fingers and wrists help relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which commonly occurs when typing at a computer. As you practice, you may notice stretching in the elbows, shoulders or neck. Since everything is connected, this is an effective way to target and relieve built-up tension in those areas, as well as the wrists and fingers. Be gentle with yourself and notice where you are feeling the stretch.
Breathe deeply and practice daily, especially if you work at a computer or had issues with Carpal Tunnel previously.
Seated Butterfly with Shoulder Stretches and Side Bend
This seated hip opener is one of my favorites. It’s an easy way to open the inner thigh and hips. While practicing in this position, we use the help of gravity to release holding and stress in the legs and hips for a deep stretch. Even if we sit without folding forward, we still receive the benefits of this hip opener, which includes stimulation to the abdominal organs, high blood pressure and anxiety.
Be mindful of how far forward you are folding to avoid over stretching. Sit up on a blanket or pillow to prevent the spine from rounding back—having a straight spine is a must when practicing this pose. The optimal stretch comes when we hinge the hips forward after the sacrum is in proper alignment, not by rounding the spine and using the neck or shoulders to fold deeper.
I’ve added in two of my favorite shoulder stretches and a side bend to practice while seated in Butterfly, which makes this a combination of stretches for both major joints of the hips and shoulders. These shoulder stretches and side bend create expansion in the ribs and shoulders and flexibility in the joints.
There is an instinct to curl and round while sitting at a computer or on a mobile phone, and this can wreak havoc on the mid and upper back. I encourage you to keep coming back to these shoulder stretches and side bend to maintain joint health and ease built-up tension. Practice a Supported Twist or Seated Knee Flop Twist after this posture for even more relief in the mid and upper back.
Seated Butterfly, ½ Archer Side Bends
My book: Yoga For Low Back and Hip Health
This pose is from my book, “Yoga For Low Back and Hip Health.” In it, you’ll find easy gentle and restorative yoga instruction that anyone can do. You’ll be feeling better in no time, without drugs or surgery. No experience needed: it’s perfect for beginners and advanced yogis alike.