I’ve been having trouble sitting down to write this post, because as COVID-19 coverage swirls around me, I’m thinking: who has time for shoulder stretches? But then again, maybe this is when we most need a few shoulder stretches. Are you hunched over at your desk? I am.
So let’s take a deep breath and do these together:
roll your shoulders forward and back
Pull one arm across your body and do a cross body shoulder stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Reach one elbow to the sky and use your other hand to gently push that arm into a stretch. Your bent arm’s hand will reach down toward your back. Do both sides.
Feel a little better already? Let’s do a bit more.
Cow face pose
Cow face pose is the yoga name for that stretch where one hand reaches down your back, and the other hand reaches up. (There’s a corresponding thing you do with your legs, but forget it for now—we’re focusing on shoulders today.) If you can’t reach your hands together, it feels like a challenging or maybe impossible pose.
But there’s a hack: use a towel, a yoga strap, or whatever you have on hand, and just hold onto that. Inch your hands toward each other as you ease into the stretch. I like to just hold the strap or towel in my top hand and grab it behind my back with the bottom hand, but if you want to do this a bit more thoughtfully, here’s a video from a yoga instructor laying out a more specific protocol.
The cross body stretch we did a minute ago pulls your shoulder inward toward your body, but what about stretching in the other direction? You can reach your arms out, like perhaps you do when you’re waking up and yawning, or you can do this stretch with a broomstick.
As the video shows, you’ll use the stick as a lever to open up your shoulder externally. I know this as a stretch for weightlifters, because it helps to be able to hold a bar on your shoulders, but it feels great no matter who you are. Give it a try!