When it comes to relieving shoulder tension or simply relaxing, there is no substitute for a thorough yoga practice. Daily yoga is very effective in relaxing muscles and preventing stiffness. These six yoga exercises will often come in handy to create relief and reduce stress.
1.Simple Seated Twist
This involves sitting on a chair with your feet firmly on the ground, and bones pressed down. Reach the back of the chair with your right hand and your right knee with the left hand. With your head in the midline, extend it up. With your shoulders low, breathe in and out, into the stomach and eventually to the chest. Then on an inhale, lift, exhale and turn your shoulders around with your gaze over your shoulder. This, of course, can also be done sitting on your mat – making sure your sitbones are both in contact with the mat and a soft, long spine. Then put your one foot on the outside of the other knee, sole of the foot fully connected with the mat. Your other leg can stay extended, or you can tuck that heel in, next to the buttock. Then inhale and grow taller through the top of your head and on an exhale, turn. Try to make sure that your shoulders are at the same height. Try to maintain the length through the spine on the inhales while turning a little more on each exhale.
2.Actively opening the chest through the bridge pose
Lie down on your back and bend your knees, feet hip width and on the mat. Breathe out, press your feet into the mat and raise your buttocks, lifting the sternum towards the chin. Elongate the back of the neck into the floor and breathe deeply. Reach for your feet with your hands, while rolling on to your shoulders. Keep your head still with your nose pointing up and gently press the back of your head into the mat, all the while lifting the hips. This can be done supported – with your hands under your hips, or a block.
3. Supported Forward Bend
This pose is meant to release and relax your neck. With your legs crossed, sit on the floor in front of a seat and place a pillow in the seat. Pull the chair towards you and rest your head on the pillow, with your arms just under your forehead. Gently stretch the neck muscles by dropping the chin to the chest and breath in and out while resting your head on the pillow.
Also known as corpse pose, this is meant for relaxing completely. Lying on your back on your mat, aim your heels for the corners of your mat. Arms by your sides, turn your palms up. Support your body wherever needed – e.g. a bolster under your knees, etc. Then, through breath or visualisation, imagine your muscles and your bones melting into the mat.
5. Supta baddha konasana
This pose is best performed with your eyes closed or covered with an eye bag or a pillow. It allows the head and neck to relax, while opening the chest. Lie back on a stack of pillows or put a block or bolster between your shoulder blades, with your head supported by one or two pillows if you want. If it feels ok to have the head unsupported (pay attention to your neck here!) and have your head hang back, you will stimulate the thyroid too. Or you can support your head and then stretch your chin toward your chest, relieving the neck muscles. You could also have a pillow should support the buttocks, to support the lower back. Let your arms lie by your sides, palms up. Your legs are long and relaxed. There is a variation where you can bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to drop open naturally. This is a great hip opener – we often hold tension in the hips too. Breathe in and out deeply while in this pose. This pose is also a great stretch for the chest.
6. Ghomukasana arms
This pose comes in handy in the movement of shoulders to correct the forward head position and rounded back. You might also want to arm yourself with a belt for this asana! Sitting down with legs out in front of you, set your feet in parallel position and extend sides of the torso up, while pressing down through the sitting bones. Let the head rest on the body’s midline and drop the shoulders down. Lift one arm into the air, turn your palm to the side so that your thumb faces to the back, and stretch the little finger upward. Now bend the elbow and reach for your shoulder blades. Stretch your other hand to the side to gain length, bend the elbow and reach up for the other hand. You could hold a belt between the two hands or if it is accessible to you, leave the belt and see if you can interlace the fingers of both hands. Make sure that the spine is extended, and does not lean either to the left or right and breathe in and out in this position. Keep your chin in neutral.
These poses should be helpful to relieve you of stress and headaches too. Include them in your daily routine if you are prone to much stress. Always do both sides of the body.
Wishing your peace, and calm.