Open your shoulders, open your heart
by Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on July 7, 2015
Unfortunately, rounded shoulders are fashionable.
For a moment, defy the trend. On the inhale, lift and separate your collar bones and imagine dropping your shoulder blades into your back pockets. Your head hovers above your heart.
This healthy posture can feel unnatural, and it’s tough to hold.
The shoulders usually round forward because the pectoral and latissimus dorsi muscles (pecs and lats) are tight while the upper back muscles including the rear deltoids, mid-trapezius and rhomboids are weak.
Hunching over computers and cellphones, driving and lugging heavy shoulder bags and backpacks are frequent culprits.
And don’t underestimate vanity. In the quest for ripped abdominals and a defined chest, the overworked front body tugs on the neglected back body.
A slouchy posture is an awkward posture, but how you look is only one drawback. The forward pull and head drop can painfully strain the neck and shoulders, restrict the breath and even damage the cervical spine over time.
Also, the insecure powerlessness communicated by the slouch could be more than symbolic. Research conducted by Amy Cuddy, a professor with Harvard Business School, indicated that the more “powerful” your pose — the more space you take up being tall, big and outstretched — the more powerful you become. In this study, power poses jacked testosterone and decreased the stress hormone cortisol, a recipe for a confident leader.
Even from a yogic, energetic perspective, the rounded shoulders not only compress your heart chakra but your power center in your solar plexus. Such energetic blockages can result in low self-esteem, self-consciousness and fear of rejection.
Buck the curve, and open yourself to more possibilities.
Stretch the chest
- Begin in the doorway. Open your arms wide and grab the door frame. Take two steps and hinge forward from the heels, expand your chest and hold.
- Stand facing the wall. Stretch your arms wide, and press them against the wall, palms down. Move your left palm to the wall beside your left shoulder, and push your left shoulder away from the wall. You’ll feel a stretch in your right pectoral muscle.
3. Camel and Wheel. These two yoga poses are for the flexible only.
For beginning Camel, come to your knees, and place your palms behind you above the buttocks, fingertips down. Squeeze your elbows together, keep your hips directly above your knees and drop your head back. If you are flexible enough, grab your heels for full Camel.
For Wheel, lie on your back. Bend your legs with your soles on the floor, and press your hands to the floor directly above your shoulders, fingertips facing your body. Press your feet and hands into the floor and lift your hips into a full backbend.
- Cow Face Pose. While either standing or sitting, raise your right arm to the ceiling, parallel to your ear. Stretch your left arm out to the side parallel to the floor. Bend your right arm so your fingertips travel down your back, and bend your left arm to slide your hand up your back to meet your right hand. Clasp your fingertips and hold, but, if they don’t touch, connect with a strap. Switch sides.
Strengthen your back
Begin with tabletop. Come to your hands and knees. Stretch your right leg out behind you even with your hip and your toes pointing downward. Reach your left arm in front of you level with your shoulder. Hold and then switch sides.
Bridge and Locust will stretch your chest and strengthen your back.
Bridge. Lie on your back with the legs bent and soles of the feet on the floor. If available, squeeze a foam block between the knees. On the inhale lift the hips to the sky by pushing with the legs and grounding the feet. While holding the hips up, tuck straightened arms under the body and interlace the fingers.
Locust. While lying on the belly, stretch the arms and legs like a superhero. Simultaneously, lift both the legs and the arms and hold, keeping the neck neutral. Then, alternate lifting and lowering opposite arms and legs. Finally, interlace the fingers behind the back with straight arms, lift the legs and hold.
As you contemplate how your posture has been affecting your energy, lie in restorative poses.
As you lie on your back, slip a foam block or a bolster between your shoulder blades. Allow your head to drop to the floor and your heart to push through your shoulders.
Next, your block is your pillow. Place the end of your bolster on the block to make a capital T. Stack a folded blanket on top of the block to build your pillow. Top the bolster with another folded blanket. Lie back on the T, your head supported by the blanket and block, the bolster padded by a blanket along your spine. Your seat should not be on the bolster but on the floor.
Allow your shoulders to melt to the earth and open your heart in every way.
Click on the online version to see more demonstrations by Aja Reeser. Visit www.AjaReeser.com.