Whether you sit at a desk all day, work on your feet, run around with your toddler, or you have an active job, we all carry tension and stress in our shoulders and neck. When we feel “tight in our shoulders,” it often translates to a tight trapezius muscle. It runs from the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae, and laterally to the spine of the shoulder blade. It is responsible for moving the shoulder blade and supports the arm. A lot of this tension stems from slouching or folding our shoulders forward. This unconscious misalignment comes not only from the daily grind like working at a desk or studying for finals, but also from tightness in the front body. The biggest culprit for causing this tightness in the chest is the pectoralis minor—it’s a small muscle but a mighty one. By encouraging flexibility in this muscle, we can prevent the constant forward pull of the shoulders.
Here are a few poses to help loosen tight shoulders, try to do these throughout the day as often as you can, hold each pose for a few breaths.
How to do it: Straighten your front leg with toes straight out. Point the toes of your back foot forward and push hard through the outer edge of your foot. Lengthen your torso, placing your hand on your front foot, shin or floor depending on your comfort level. Reach your top arm overhead, opening your chest to the ceiling. Repeat for opposite side.
Opens the inner thighs, stretches the hip flexors, strengthens the quads, opens the torso, stretches the lats, stretches the chest muscles and improves core. Strengthens the shoulder girdle.
Begin standing with your knees slightly bent. Lift the right foot up, balance on the left foot, and cross the right thigh over the left. Hook the top of the right foot behind the left calf. As you balance on the left foot, reach the arms out in front of you, cross the right arm over the left, and bend the elbows.
Wrap the left hand around the inside of the right wrist and press the palms together. Raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor and squeeze the arms together while slightly dropping the shoulders down. Sink into the standing leg, gaze forward, and breathe. Stay here for 15 to 30 seconds, reverse sides.
Stretches the shoulders and upper back. Strengthens the chest, back and shoulders.
Reverse Plank Pose
Come to the floor in a seated position with your legs extended forward, feet together. Place your hands several inches behind your hips with the palms on the floor and fingers point forward. As you inhale, press into your hands and feet to lift your body up. Press the feet down into the floor with your big toes and inner thighs pressing toward each other. Lift through the front of the body by pressing the hips and chest toward the sky. Keep your glutes relaxed. Slowly drop your head behind you.
Stretches the chest, neck and shoulders flexors. Strengthens the back and shoulders: posterior deltoids and rhomboids.