The upper body often harbors tightness and tension caused from bad habits, especially poor posture from hunching over to look into smartphones or sitting for the majority of the day. The good news is that yoga postures can help stretch the upper body and release this tension, leaving us to feel more open, healthy and happy in the process. Stretch to create space in your upper body by practicing these yoga postures.
1. Sukhasana with ‘T’ Position Arms
Sit in Easy pose (or a chair if seated position isn’t available) and extend the arms out to a ‘T’ position. Work this stretch into the upper back and neck by reaching the hands toward upward and downward, pushing energy through the fingertips to activate the arms. Connect your breath with the movement, noticing how sensations in the upper body evolve.
Gomukhasana, or Cow Face Pose, helps you gently flex the upper back, open the chest and stretch the arms and shoulders. If your shoulders are especially tight, you can use a strap to help connect the hands. Once you make the connection with the hands behind the back, allow the top elbow to stretch upward and the bottom elbow downward. In the traditional form of the pose, crossing the legs can help to stretch the lower body as well.
3. Seated Garudasana
This variation of Eagle arms helps to stretch the upper back and shoulders. To explore the pose, gently move the elbows up and down, noticing the way movement affects the upper back.
4. (Super) Bhujangasana
Cobra pose (bhujangasana) is a classic posture to stretch the chest, activating the arms as the shoulder blades are drawn together. A new twist this classic is ‘super’ cobra. In this variation, bring your hands wide and away from the mat, activating the shoulder girdle. After completing a few rounds of bhujangasana, bring your hands wide, pressing the fingers into the ground. Keep the elbows bent and open the chest forward, stretching deeply into the upper arms and shoulders.
5. Uttana Shishosana
Uttana Shishosana, or puppy pose, stretches the chest, shoulders and arms. It is a great pose to hold and focus on your breath. To enter the pose, come into tabletop on all fours and walk your hands forward, pressing the palms into the mat and straightening the elbows. If your forehead does not reach the mat, place a block underneath for support. Press the palms into the mat to change the intensity of the stretch.
6. Thread the Needle
Thread the Needle pose helps to stretch a notoriously tight, difficult to reach area—the upper back. To enter the pose, begin in tabletop and extend one arm upward, followed by bringing the arm across the body and under the opposite armpit, keeping the palm facing upward.
Customise the stretch by pressing the top of the hand into the ground. For an added opening in the chest, bring the ‘unthreaded’ arm into a bind (as pictured).
7 and 8. Seated Marjaiasana-Bitilasana
Practicing the Cat-Cow combination in a seated position can help bring a bit of vinyasa into your upper body stretch. From a seated position, inhale and reach the arms back, opening the chest and shoulders.
As you exhale, bring the low belly in and reach the hands forward, stretching the upper back. Find your flow by connecting the breath to each movement, stretching the entire upper body.
9. Supta Baddha Konasana with Block
If you are feeling low energy, this supta baddha konasana variation with a block may be a great option. Place the block in between the shoulder blades, allowing the chest to open. Bring the soles of the feet together and relax the arms, allowing the stretch to enter passively.
Adding these postures into a daily routine can help the upper body stay relaxed and flexible. Explore the poses and find what works for you!