In yoga, I hear the statement “Open your heart,” a lot. Right now, hearing that may make me explode with frustration. So I bring to you some basic shoulder-opening poses, where most of us carry tension. These poses can also help open up our hearts (whenever we may be ready for such a feat as that.)
Having tension in our shoulders is nothing new - that’s always where we ask people to focus if we are ever given the opportunity to have a person pop up and offer a massage! But WHY are our shoulders tense so often? Physically, there is a reason: The neck, shoulders, and
thoracic area of the spine are all connected by the trapezius muscle. This muscle is responsible for controlling most of the movement of our heads, so it’s ALWAYS at work, and most often the source of our aches and pains. I mean, we have a lot going on in our ladybrains…we read current events and health articles on LezBeLib…we’re smart. That’s a lot for a muscle to carry around. It’s science.
What can you do? Yoga.
Here are a few poses that can help your shoulders begin to release the tension that has built up over the very few years in our glorious lives.
The first pose is called “Bridge Pose,” and will improve your spine flexibility, open your chest (and thus your big, beautiful, loving heart), strengthen your spine, AND stimulate your thyroid. Thigh-wha? The thyroid gland is in our necks, below where our Adam’s apples would be, and controls how quickly our body uses energy, makes protein, and how sensitive our body is to OTHER hormones. Basically, it’s a good thing to stimulate.
1. Lay on your back.
2. Bend your knees and place your arms down by your side.
3. Tuck your heels in so they touch the tip of your fingers.
4. Pretend there is a beach ball between your knees and keep them parallel.
5. Take a deep ujjayi breath in, and as you exhale…
6. Lift your pelvis up towards the ceiling.
7. Interlace your fingers behind your back, and straighten your arms.
8. Press your arms into the mat, rolling each shoulder under.
To come down:
1. Release your hands.
2. Place them don on the mat.
3. Slowly roll down from your upper back to your lower back.
The next pose you can put your back into is known as "Camel Pose." Camel Pose stretches the front of the body, including chest, quads, abs, and shoulders. And also improves spinal flexibility. Sense a trend?
If you have weak knees, I recommend placing a folded blanket for padding underneath them.
1. Kneel on your mat (padding if needed) with knees hip-width apart, and tops of feet firmly pressed onto the floor.
2. Place your hands on the back of your pelvis, fingers pointing down and palms on the top of your cute little bunners.
3. Lean back using your hands to support you and allow your shoulder blades to move down your back and together.
4. Lift your chin up to the ceiling, and let your chest, and pelvis, open in front of you.
That may be enough, and for many beginners is as far as they can go. If you feel comfortable, try and get into the full expression of the pose:
5. Bring your head back up to “normal.”
6. Slowly lower one hand to hold your heels.
7. Bring your hips forward so they are in line with your knees.
8. Let your head come back, and chin reach up to the ceiling again.
** If you cannot reach your feet: Curl your toes under and come to the
balls of your feet.
The last pose I am going to introduce to you is known as "Bow Pose." This pose is a major shoulder and chest opener, and frankly, it feels awesome!
1. Lay on your stomach (you may want to put a blanket under your hips
2. Bend your knees-bringing your feet as close to your hot booty as possible.
3. Reach your hands back and grasp your ankles, or the tops of your feet (whatever is more comfortable.)
4. Inhale, lifting your legs up off the floor, which will pull your torso up as well.
5. Every exhale kick your legs back behind you-finding even more opening in your chest
6. Hold for 20-30 seconds max, then release and lay back down.
You can come back up into this pose once or twice more.
There you are ladies/gents/ladygents/wonderful human beings! I'll be back soon with more tips on how to get nice and loose with yourself!