Do you know where you hold your stress? Chances are the majority of people reading this hold stress in their upper body or have at one point. And if you don’t hold stress in your upper body, are you aware of all the pressure put on it from the modern day society we live in? Think about what slouching over in a desk all day or sitting at home on the computer can do to your upper body, specifically your posture. Not only do these things wreak havoc on your posture, they also can contribute to overall tightness and pain. Eventually down the road, muscular imbalances in the upper body may even start to occur.
Our bodies are made for physical activity and being stationery for a long period of time with unnatural movements can take a real toll. Even spending lots of time in the texting pose (which is definitely not a yoga pose!) can cause problems to the upper body.
How To Tell If You Have Good Posture
When it comes to having a strong and healthy upper body, good posture is key. Assess your own posture and see how it is. For starters, check in with yourself and see if you are constantly hunched over. Correct posture is when your body is aligned. Think, back straight, shoulders squared and relaxed, chin up, chest out, and stomach in. Over time bad posture can lead to neck, spine and back problems.
Learning good posture is key, and once you learn it, being mindful of having good posture is just as important. Our brains can go on auto pilot mode and the hunching over habit begins again. Make sure to do a mental check in throughout the day on your posture and if it’s not good, fix it. Over time with mindfulness, good posture will come more naturally.
Tips For Good Posture:
Tuck the chin to lengthen the back of the neck
Bring ears back above the shoulders
Shoulders are over the hips
Draw shoulder blades together and down the back
Pull your elbows back toward where your back pants pockets would be
Lift up through the sternum
Make sure the spine is long
Yoga Poses Help Your Upper Body Release Tension & Tightness
Practicing yoga is a great way to strengthen, stretch out and relieve tension in the upper body. If your upper body feels tight, it won’t likely be an easy overnight fix. It took awhile for your body to feel that way and it will take while for your body to feel better.
Yoga Poses To Stretch Out The Upper Body
Cat and lion
Thread the needle
Backward hand clasp
Deep Breathing Can Change Your Upper Body (And Life!)
Breath is the most important element of yoga. You hear yoga instructors say to connect with the breath, stay with the breath, use the breath to push through difficulty. Breathing deep and with awareness brings us to the present moment. It helps to slow down racing thoughts and to connect us within. When we focus on breathing, the control of the breath helps us work through thoughts and emotions and we feel an inner sense of calm. Breathing shallow puts the body in a state of stress and creates tension.
Shallow breathing can be a major factor to upper body discomfort. Using yoga principles to breathe deeper can help to alleviate upper body stress. Deepen the breath by slowing down, checking in and engaging your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the body’s primary breathing muscle and if it’s not used properly, our body uses accessory breathing muscles in the throat and chest which can lead to upper body tension.
How To Take A Deep Healing Breath
According to Harvard Health here's how to take a deep, healing, diaphragmatic breath:
First steps. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Start by observing your breath. First take a normal breath. Now try taking a slow, deep breath. The air coming in through your nose should move downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). Alternate normal and deep breaths several times. Pay attention to how you feel when you inhale and exhale normally and when you breathe deeply. Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.
Now practice diaphragmatic breathing for several minutes. Put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale. Your chest will rise slightly, too, in concert with your abdomen. Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully.
Yoga is a great way to find relief from upper body issues. For best results, practice yoga with patience and consistency, and don’t forget to breathe...deep!
By Suzanne Kvilhaug
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