Keeping it simple

7 Exercises to relieve upper-body tension, recommended by a yoga teacher

Hey there, fellow seekers of tranquility and well-being! If you’re like many of us, you might find yourself carrying a lot of tension in your upper body—whether it’s from hunching over a computer all day, stress, or simply the wear and tear of daily life. But fear not! We’ve got you covered with seven soothing exercises recommended by a seasoned yoga teacher that can help melt away that tension and leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

1. Cat-Cow Stretch

Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, arch your back and lift your tailbone and chest towards the ceiling, letting your belly drop towards the floor (Cow Pose). As you exhale, round your spine towards the ceiling, tucking your chin to your chest and drawing your belly button towards your spine (Cat Pose). Flow smoothly between these two poses for several breaths, focusing on the fluidity of movement and the release of tension in your spine.

2. Thread the Needle

Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Reach your right arm underneath your left arm, threading it through until your right shoulder and temple rest on the mat. Your left hand can stay planted on the ground for support, or you can extend it overhead for a deeper stretch. Hold this pose for several breaths, feeling the gentle opening in your upper back and shoulders. Repeat on the other side.

3. Eagle Arms

Sit or stand tall with your arms by your sides. Bring your arms out in front of you at shoulder height. Cross your right arm over your left, then bend both elbows so that your forearms are perpendicular to the floor, with the backs of your hands facing each other. From here, you can either press the palms of your hands together (if accessible) or simply press the backs of your hands towards each other. Lift your elbows slightly and hold for several breaths, feeling the stretch across your upper back and shoulders. Repeat with the opposite arm on top.

4. Shoulder Rolls

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. Inhale as you lift your shoulders up towards your ears, then exhale as you roll them back and down in a smooth, circular motion. Continue this movement for several repetitions, allowing your breath to guide the rhythm of the rolls. This simple exercise can help release tension and improve mobility in your shoulders.

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5. Supported Fish Pose

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place a yoga block or a folded blanket under your mid-back, supporting your spine. Allow your arms to rest comfortably by your sides with your palms facing up. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths, allowing your chest to open and your shoulders to relax with each exhale. Hold this pose for 1-2 minutes, focusing on releasing any tension you may be holding in your upper body.

6. Standing Forward Fold with Clasped Hands

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and fold forward at your hips, allowing your upper body to hang loosely towards the floor. Clasp your hands behind your back and let your arms fall towards your head, feeling the stretch in your shoulders and upper back. Keep a slight bend in your knees if necessary to maintain comfort in your lower back and hamstrings. Hold for several breaths, then slowly release your hands and roll up to standing.

7. Neck Stretches

Sit or stand tall with your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder, and hold for a few breaths, feeling the stretch along the left side of your neck. Repeat on the left side. Then, gently lower your chin towards your chest, feeling the stretch in the back of your neck. Hold for a few breaths, then tilt your head back slightly, stretching the front of your neck. Remember to keep the movements slow and gentle, never forcing the stretch.

Incorporate these exercises into your daily routine to help alleviate upper-body tension and cultivate a sense of ease and relaxation in your body and mind. Remember to listen to your body and honor its limitations, and always consult with a qualified yoga instructor or healthcare professional if you have any concerns or medical conditions. Here’s to a happier, healthier, and more relaxed you!

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