Yoga for Upper Body Tension

5 seated moves to stretch, de-stress
Woman with pain in her shoulder

We spend a lot of our time hunched over a computer, our desks and even over the steering wheel of our cars. This can cause tight, sore muscles that lead to tension headaches and neck pain.

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According to Judi Bar, Yoga Program Manager at Cleveland Clinic, these poses help release tension, open the chest for better breathing and reduce stress. They are all done while seated, so you can easily practice them at home or at your desk.

All these movements begin with a basic seated posture. To do this, sit at the front edge of your chair with your spine lengthened, chest lifted, shoulders relaxed down and away from your ears, feet on the floor and knees directly over ankles. Breathe gently and evenly. You’re ready for some easy stretches that feel great.

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Yoga moves for your upper body

In the video, Ms. Bar demonstrates the following movements. Here they are explained for your reference.

Neck rolls

  1.  While in your basic seated posture, gently drop your head forward and roll from side to side.
  2. Let the weight of your head gently stretch your neck. Small “popping” noises are OK but there should be no pain in this movement.

Avoid letting your head drop back in order to protect your cervical spine.

Shoulder rolls

  1. While in your seated position at the front of your chair, gently lift your shoulders and rotate them backwards in slow circular motions.
  2. Repeat a few times, and then reverse the motion.

This exercise loosens and lubricates the joints and helps open the chest for better breathing.

Fan pose

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  1. Begin in your basic seated posture but sitting as far forward on the chair as possible.
  2. Gently move arms back behind you until you can hold onto the back of your chair.
  3. Keep your elbows straight and adjust the height of your hands until you feel a good stretch in your chest, arms and shoulders.

This is a great pose to open the chest and improve posture and breathing.

Straight arm across chest/bent arm behind back

  1. From your starting posture at the front of your chair, lift your right arm out in front of you and cross your straight arm over your body to the left.
  2. Take your left hand and gently support the right arm just above the elbow. Let all the weight of the right arm settle into the left hand and gently bring the arm closer to your chest.
  3. Turn your head to the right and look over your right shoulder.
  4. Release and bend the right arm back behind you.
  5. Reach back with the left hand and try to grasp the right hand.
  6. Gently sway side to side.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

These exercises provide a good stretch in your upper arm and shoulder in the front and the trapezius and rhomboid muscles in the back.

‘Stir the pot’

  1. Begin in your basic seated posture.
  2. Widen your legs while keeping your knees directly over your ankles. The feet should be pointed in the same direction as your knees.
  3. With a straight back, gently lean forward, rest your left forearm on the left thigh and drop your right arm between your knees.
  4. Gently “stir” the arm in a circular motion – a few repetitions in one direction, and then reverse directions.
  5. Repeat with the other arm.

These stretches improve your range of motion, lubricate the shoulder joint and allows gravity to gently lengthen the arm.

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