Slouching forward over a desk, steering wheel, stove, phone, or a laptop are becoming a way of life for many of us. As a result, a lot of people are struggling with neck pain and rounded upper back and shoulders (Excessive Kyphosis). This also tends to have an effect on the strength of the rest of the spine and the core leading to poor posture and pain.
If this is happening to you or someone you love, here are a few ways to use movements and yoga poses to reduce pain and begin realigning the posture of the spine, shoulders, and neck. If you’d like to try a more guided practice, you could also sign up to the super successful free 30 Day Yoga Challenge. It will help get you into a good practice, so you notice when you’re slouching and rounding your upper back!
Pre-stretch: Backward Shoulder Rolls
A simple exercise to loosen tight shoulders, shoulder rolls provide a safe and effective stretch to start with before diving into yoga poses. Literally rolling your shoulders up, back, and down will help to massage the overstretched rhomboids (deep upper back muscles between the shoulder blades) so that they can begin relaxing the shoulders down your back.
1. Modify Poses with Reverse Prayer Hands or Hands Clasped Behind the Back.
You can use this variation in many, many different shapes including Warrior III, Humble Warrior, Chair and Butterfly. The action of this movement helps to stretch out the contracted (and therefore likely shortened) muscles over your chest and in the front of your shoulders. This will alleviate pain and correct your posture over time.
2. Rabbit Pose
Image credit: Alissa
This shape will help to stretch out the top of your trapezius muscle, specifically where your neck meets the bottom of your head. When you have tight shoulders and upper back from hunching forward a whole lot, the neck muscles begin to get tight from picking up the slack.
You’ll also find that hunching forward encourages your chin to jut forward more, changing the posture of your neck (jalandhara bandha). This can be really painful for the neck. Rabbit pose undoes all of this.
3. Revolved Side Angle
Taking a half or full bind in Side Angle pose is an excellent way to show your shoulder and chest muscles some love, one at a time. This way, if one side is tighter than other, you can spend more time there until you feel the muscles loosen up.
4. Bridge Pose
Image credit: Heather Gjerde
Scoot your shoulders deep underneath you to help pull the shoulder blades back into place, but also to stretch out the tightening muscles across your chest.
5. Cat-Cow Pose
Alternate between the two and pause for twice as long in Cow Pose with the shoulder blades pressing towards each other and the elbows slightly bent. Be sure that you keep your neck long. To get the benefits of the shape, the movement needs to come from your chest and hips, instead of from your eyebrows and neck.
6. Easy Twist
Twists should be coming from your thoracics (middle spine), which is right where your shoulder blades generally are. This means they will help to realign the spine exactly where the painful rounding is occuring—the upper back. Easy Twist will press your shoulders together behind you, and provide an opportunity to use your lifted hand to push deeper into the stretch.
Reach the hand as high as you can, then press the back of your hand back behind you like you’re trying to push someone away from you.
On top of this we should of course be looking at the root cause of the problem. Eliminate any repetitive motions and actions that may be causing your posture to fall out of alignment. Perhaps it’s time to get the ergonomics of your desk checked, or get a posture-improving pillow in your car, or maybe we can all stop staring down at our phones so much throughout the day.
In the meantime, these shapes and postures should help alleviate some of the problem.
Image credit: Sanàa Jaman