Morning Shoulder Opening Sequence

Model Credit: Veronica Quezada

Model Credit: Veronica Quezada

So, I love yoga. I got certified a few years back. I know a lot of people (I used to be one of them) get a big practice in every so often. While you may feel super accomplished after dozens of backbends, I think in the long run you'll benefit more from a little bit everyday. Even if it's just a short practice. So, I put together this practice where all you need is a towel and 5 minutes. You can do the sequence more than once if you've got more time. Maybe save some time for meditating at the end. Even a minute of meditation can make a difference. Yes, just a minute, actually there's an organization called Just a Minute or JAM. So, take a minute to JAM. (I amuse myself.) I prefer longer meditations, but somedays I hit snooze seventeen times and have exactly one minute to meditate. Glad to know there's evidence that it's still effective. 

This practice is meant to target the shoulders, where lots of tension can be held in the body. Shoulder opening practices also stimulate 4th chakra or anahata. Opening this chakra helps you to feel more love and connection. So, you may feel all warm and fuzzy after. These exercises will help increase the circulation around the heart and chest keeping it healthy and in balance. 

Basics:

  • Hold each pose for 10 seconds before moving on.
  • Always keep the shoulders dropping down the back.
  • Keep your neck long.
  • Keep breathing. Typically, exhale when folding and inhale when extending. ex. Exhale to fold forward, inhale to come back up.
  • Feet flat and flexed.
  • Knees soft, not over-extending.  

Start standing with feet together, take your towel behind your back and hold it with your hands facing away from you. On an exhale, gently pull your shoulders together and pull your navel to your spine and drop backwards. Keeping your arms straight, go just as far as feels comfortable. 

Bring your towel overhead and turn your hands so they're facing forward. Keep your body upright, keep your arms straight and take just your arms over to the right. In this posture let the rotation come from your shoulders. Repeat on the left.

This is another side bend but this time the movement should originate from the hip. It's more of an isometric move than a big physical move, but you should be able to feel the difference from the previous exercise. 

Take your arms over head, hands facing forward, gently pulling to towel apart, lean to the right. Do not collapse through the right side, make sure you keep your torso strong. Don't compromise posture for greater range of motion. Repeat on the left. 

Take the towel behind your back again, with your hands facing away from you. Squeeze your shoulders together and gently drop forward on an exhale. Let your arms come as close to the ground as feels comfortable, while pressing your feet firmly into the ground. Make sure to press through all four corners of your feet. This will help you feel a deeper stretch through the back of the legs. You can go straight from this pose to standing and back to a backbend and repeat the series. 

Repeat the standing series 3-5 times 

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Once you're done, find a seated position and extend you legs straight out. Pull your navel up and in and wrap your towel around your feet. Press your feet evenly into the towel. This stretch should go through the calves and up the lower back. If you're comfortable, on an exhale gently walk your hands down the towel and closer to your feet as you begin to curve the spine for a forward fold. Keep your knees soft and your legs straight. 

Release your legs from the towel and fold the towel into a square, so it's comfortable to sit on. Your knees should drop lower than your hips. This helps the hips open up. Close your eyes and  gently breathe in and out through your nose making sure to expand your chest, rib cage and lungs on each inhale. Then relax your whole body on the exhale. 

Pin or print this sequence to remember to practice. 

Model Credit: Veronica Quezada

Model Credit: Veronica Quezada