Do you carry stress in your shoulders, causing back pain and poor posture? If so, this 10-minute yoga workout is for you. In this video, Health contributing editor Kristin McGee demonstrates a series of poses, or asanas, that will help open your shoulders, increase flexibility, and strengthen your upper body. Watch the video and follow along.
Don’t have time to watch? Read the full transcript:
Hi, I'm Kristin McGee. Here is a great yoga sequence you can do to open up your upper body. Since we’re always schlepping heavy bags, so many of us carry tension in our shoulders and the head and neck region. This sequence helps to release those muscles, strengthen the arms and shoulders, and maintain great posture. Let’s get started and be sure to repeat all the poses you do on the right side on the left as well.
Shoulder Opening Stretch: Standing tall, clasp your hands together behind your back. Lean back slightly to open the chest, then slowly fold over the legs with the hands still clasped as the arms reach overhead behind the back.
High Lunge (Right Side): Step your right foot back into a lunge and lift the arms up overhead.
Vinyasa: Drop your hands to the mat and step back into a downward-facing dog with the heels pushing down and the hips raised high. Roll your body forward to come into a plank, keeping your shoulder blades tucked into your back as you lower into your chaturanga. Inhale as you do an upward-facing dog and exhale as you move back into a downward-facing dog. Walk the feet to the front of the mat, clasp the hands behind the back again, reaching toward the ceiling as you fold forward, then swing up to stand. Repeat this swinging motion again.
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Tricep Stretch (Right Side): Hold opposite elbows overhead. Take the right arm overhead and pull the elbow with your left hand to get the deep tricep opening. If you can, sneak the left arm up behind the back so the hands clasp from opposite directions. Lean a little to the left for a nice shoulder opening.
Eagle (Right Side): Interlace the right arm under the left with the palms pressed together to create eagle arms. Start to make a small circle movement with the arms in one direction, then the other. Next, bend the knees and add the legs. Still standing, cross the left leg over the right leg. If you can, double cross the legs at the ankles. Bend forward slightly for a stretch in the arms and shoulders.
Bend and Press Stretch: Standing tall, press the hands up to the ceiling, then bend the elbows to the sides. Now press the arms back up to the ceiling. Inhale as you bend the elbows down toward the body, exhale as you push the palms back up toward the ceiling. Add the legs if you want, bending the knees and you bend the elbows, and lengthening as you extend the arms straight again. Repeat three times.
Standing Forward Fold: From standing, fold the upper body over the legs.
Plank Pose: Bring the body parallel to the floor with the palms and toes pressing down to the mat, heels pushing back.
Shoulder Stretch: On all fours, turn your right hand to face your left hand. Next, take the left arm and thread it through to the right so that you're resting on the back of the left shoulder. If you want to raise the right arm, you can. You can also throw that right arm all the way around behind you to catch the inner left thigh. Come back to all fours and repeat the stretch on the other side.
Forearm Downward-Facing Dog: Drop your hands to the mat and step back into a downward-facing dog with the heels pushing down and the hips raised high. Pedal out the feet, then drop the forearms to the mat.
Forearm Plank: From a forearm downward-facing dog, roll the body forward to come into a forearm plank.
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Sphinx Pose: From a forearm plank, lower your hips to the floor to come into a sphinx pose. Slide the shoulders down the back, opening up the chest. Keep the tailbone long and the lower abdominals engaged.
Rotator Cuff Stretch: From a sphinx pose, roll yourself down to the mat and stretch your arms out long to the sides. Keep your right hand reaching out to the side, with the palm facing down at first. Start to roll onto the right shoulder. As you do this, flip the palm to face up. Next, step the left foot to the outside of the right leg and try to find the bottom hand with the top hand. As the hands try to clasp together behind the back, you'll feel a major rotator cuff stretch. Repeat the stretch on the left side.
Child’s Pose: Push yourself back to a child’s pose, with the upper body resting on the thighs, arms lengthened out in front of you. Flip the palms to face up, trying to get your thumbnails to touch the mat to open up the shoulders. If you want to go even deeper, bend the elbows and place your hands on your shoulders as you walk the bent arms forward on the mat.
Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch: Sitting on the mat, take one arm across the chest. Use the opposite arm to gently pull it further for a stretch. Switch sides.