Happy Shoulders, Happy Back
Shoulders, Back, Mobility
This heart opening flow focuses on external shoulder rotation and strengthening the back body. Feel free to use it at the beginning or end of your next practice.
Forearm Wall Slides x5
Begin facing a wall. Bend both arms at the elbows to 90-degrees and place both the hands and elbows against the wall with the fingertips pointing upwards. Make sure the hands are directly above the elbows (not splaying inwards). Slowly, slide the arms straight up the wall without losing the alignment of the hands or the contact of the elbows to the wall. Engage the core so that you don’t arch into the lower back as you lift. Hold for 3-5 seconds at the top and lower slowly. Repeat 5 times.
Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Return to the top of your mat and fold forward. Feel free to take a slight bend in the knees so the chest drapes over the thighs. Let the arms dangle to help loosen up the shoulders. Allow the head to sink towards the floor to find a slight opening in the back of the neck.
Continue to bend into the knees until you can place your hands on the ground, then step back into a tabletop position. On your inhale, drop the belly towards the floor as you arch into your lower back and lift your gaze towards the ceiling. On your exhale, reverse this motion by arching into your upper back as you push your shoulder blades apart and tuck your chin in towards the chest. Repeat these motions five times, matching your movement to your breath.
Cat/Cow x5 (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Bring the forearms down to the mat and walk your feet into a plank position. Turn the palms down to face the mat with the forearms parallel. Grip with the fingertips and push down through the elbows to protract (engage and spread) the shoulder blades. Pull the navel in towards the spine and slightly tuck the pelvis forwards to engage the core.
Sphynx (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Slowly, sink the hips down to the mat. Ensure that the elbows are stacked directly under the shoulders as you shine the chest forward. Pull the navel in gently as you isometrically (without actually moving) pull the elbows down towards the hips to bring the stretch into your lower abdominals.
Stomach W-Y’s x5
Lower your upper body all the way down to the mat. Reach the arms up overhead and lift the hands away from the mat so that the arms hover. Your body should be in a giant Y position. Slowly, pull the elbows down to around your ribcage (a W position). As you move, work to keep the elbows and hands above your body by pulling the shoulder blades together and externally rotating the arms (think, reaching the hands up a little higher than the elbows). Your forehead can stay against the ground throughout the movement. Hold at the bottom for a moment, the return to the Y position. Repeat five times.
Locust Legs (Salabhasana Variation)
Bring the hands down by the sides, palms facing upwards. Actively press the insides of the legs towards one another and gently engage the glutes. Pull the navel in so that the core is engaged and the skin of the stomach hovers slightly off the mat. Press the back of the hands into the mat and begin to hover the legs and feet.
Bow with External Rotation (Dhanurasana Variation)
From Locust Legs, release the body back down to the mat. Bend both legs so that the heels come in towards the seat. Engage the inner thighs towards one another, then reach the hands back and grab onto the insides of the ankles with the hands. This grip will automatically try to force your ankles apart, so engage the legs to keep the shins parallel. Press backwards with your feet to help the upper body lift off the mat into a backbend. Keep the core engaged, shoulder blades retracted, and legs parallel as you hold at the top.
Puppy (Uttana Shishosana)
Release your Bow pose and lift up into a Tabletop position on all fours. From here, begin to walk the arms forward as far as possible while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. This will look similar to Child’s Pose (Balasana), however with the hips up in the air. Begin to sink the chin and chest (rather than the forehead) towards the ground, finding a deep opening in the shoulders.
Seated Forward Fold Variation (Paschimottanasana Variation)
Walk yourself back up from Puppy pose, then cross the shins and sit back onto the floor with the body upright and the legs extended in front of you. Bend at the knees so they lift slightly off of the mat. Reach both arms around the thighs as if you’re giving yourself a big hug. From here, slowly walk the heels forward to bring you into a forward fold. The wrap of the arms will take some pressure off of the hamstrings and instead provide a release for the lower back.