Thanks to my hour-each-way commute and a job that requires
more computer time than I’d like to admit, I’m in a constant battle against
gravity to avoid the all-too-common shoulder slump of office workers. The only
thing that’s saved me from winding up a hunchback: my yoga practice. But you
don’t have to spend an hour on the mat each day to reap the benefits. Start
incorporating a few of the these stretches into your daily routine. They work
to open and relax the upper and middle back, as well as the neck, chest and
shoulders, all of which will help you counteract shoulder slump and help you
stand straighter. Bonus: You can do them anytime, anywhere. If I don’t get to
them in the morning, my favorite time, I’ll close my office door and stretch at
least once or twice throughout the day. Not only does it help my posture, it
refreshes my mind, boosts my mood, and energizes my day. (Check out 7 weird
ways poor posture messes with your mood.)
Fast Fix #1: Standing
Forward Bend With Shoulder Rinse
Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Interlace fingers
behind back, pressing palms together and straightening arms behind you. (If
your shoulders are very tight, your palms may not touch; the more you stretch,
the easier it will be to press them together, which helps deepen the opening in
your shoulders.) Inhale, taking your gaze to the ceiling and bending backwards
slightly. Exhale, folding forward at the hips, bringing the crown of your head
towards the floor. Allow your hands to fall forward, keeping arms straight,
rinsing out your shoulders. Breathe deeply, trying to keep palms together and
allowing hands to fall forward a little bit more with each exhale. Hold for 5 to
10 breaths. Slowly roll back up to standing.
Fast Fix #2: Bridge
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on floor, arms by
your sides. Walk your feet close enough to your butt that you can graze your
heel with your longest finger. Inhale, pressing through heels and lifting hips
to the sky. Wiggle shoulder blades underneath you and interlace your fingers,
elongating arms on the floor and pressing fist toward heels. Breathe deeply,
holding the pose for 3 or 4 long breaths. Tuck your chin and slowly lower hips.
Repeat 2 to 5 times. (Not into yoga? Here are three other ways to reboot your
Fast Fix #3: Upward-Facing
Lie face down on mat, palms directly under shoulders, elbows
bent by sides, and legs extended, tops of feet flat on floor. Inhale, pressing firmly
into palms pulling torso forward slightly. Straighten arms, rolling shoulders
back and down, taking gaze slightly toward ceiling. Press into tops of feet,
lifting torso and thighs a few inches off floor. Hold for 2 to 4 deep breaths.
Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Fast Fix #4: Cow Face
Sit on floor and cross right leg over left leg, trying to
line right knee directly over left knee, bringing right foot by left hip and
left foot by right hip. Inhale and stretch right arm out to right at shoulder
height, then rotate thumb toward floor and then to the back wall, palm facing
ceiling. Exhale, sweeping right arm behind you, resting right forearm on low
back and bringing back of right hand between shoulder blades. Inhale, stretching
left arm out in front of you at shoulder height, turning palm toward
ceiling. Raise left arm to sky,
palm facing back wall. Exhale and bend left elbow, brining left hand to meet
right hand, trying to hook your fingers. Hold here for about 1 minute. To
deepen stretch, hinge at hips and lean torso forward. Repeat on opposite side.
Sit on floor with knees bent, feet flat on floor, palms by
sides with fingers facing forward. Inhale, pressing through heels and lifting
hips until spine is perpendicular with floor, allowing head to fall back.
Continue lifting hips as you breathe deeply, holding for 3 to 5 deep breathes.
Repeat 2 or 3 times.