Whether you’re looking to relieve tension or increase your upper body strength, yoga can help. Focusing on your upper body in yoga will improve your posture and help with circulatory and respiratory function so you feel stronger and more open, inside and out.
Over the last few years, there’s a new term called “tech neck” or “smartphone neck.” If you work long hours at a computer or stare down at your phone all day, your shoulders round forward and your neck grows tense and stiff from remaining in an unsupported position. This slouchy posture creates tight muscles in the front of your shoulders and chest, headaches, and restricts your ability to breathe fully and deeply. Not to mention, nobody wants to look like a turtle, right?
If you don’t manage the tightness, your posture can deteriorate permanently. When your neck is in the proper position, it weighs roughly twelve pounds. According to Caring Medical, for every inch of forward head posture, the force on the spine increases by an additional ten to twelve pounds. Over time, the cervical vertebra damage can become permanent. This improper positioning can result in chronic pain and even cognitive decline.
Many simple asanas and movements improve your posture and keep your spine healthy. Any well-rounded yoga class will include stretches for your neck, shoulders, and upper back. The four upper chakras are housed above the waist, so you’ll also balance your Anahata or heart chakra, Vishudda or throat chakra, Ajna or third eye chakra, and Sahasrara or crown chakra. These chakras relate to an open heart, authentic communication, intuition, and your connection with the divine.
Once you’ve got your posture sorted, you can focus on building your upper body strength so you can pop up into a handstand or other arm balance if you want. Any Vinyasa or Ashtanga class contains numerous chaturangas, which are similar to a triceps push-up, planks, downward dogs, and more asanas that require you to engage your muscles and work with your body weight as resistance. Standing postures like Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) when you’re holding your arms out at shoulder height, also build muscular strength and endurance.
This week, we’ve got four targeted practices to give your upper body some extra love and attention. Check them out and clear your mind, open your heart, and let go of stress and tension.
Yin Yoga: Upper Body Relief - Caitlin Rose Kenney
Upper Body Reset - Jessica Oldfield
Upper Body - Denelle Numis
Yoga for Upper Body Strength - Desiree Rumbaugh
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