Sunday, March 27, 2011

5 Simple Stretches to ease Shoulder Pain

A while ago I did a post with some simple stretches to ease back pain.  Recently I got a comment on that post asking for something similar for shoulders - et voila!

I think most of us who work at desks have a tendency to hunch up and hunker down over our keyboards, and obviously all the stretching in the world can't replace good posture and a healthy work space!  If you are working long hours in the office, make sure to take regular breaks and walk around, swing your arms, roll your shoulders, and stretch a bit!

Here are a few really simple stretches that can help.  They work really well as a little flow, but can be done individually as well - and best of all, they can be done in your chair while at work.

*If clasping your hands together isn't comfortable in some of these poses, try using a small length of fabric -  a strap, belt or even a teatowel - and you will get a great stretch!

1. Start by sitting up straight with both feet evenly planted on the floor (or both sitting bones if you are sitting on the floor).  Bring your hands beside you, or even better, underneath you and take 5 deep breaths while you focus on dropping the shoulders down as far away as you can from your ears.  Then:

2.  Inhale, and reach your arms up overhead.  Clasp the fingers together and turn the palms upwards*.  Now bring your focus back to the shoulders and again, try to drop them away from your ears while still lengthening upwards through the crown of your head.  Hold for 5 breaths or about 30 seconds.

3.  Release your hands and bring them down behind you.  Once again interlace the fingers behind your back*, and gently lift your hands away from your lower back until you feel a nice stretch.  Hold for 5 breaths or about 30 seconds.

4. Release your arms and stretch them out in front of you, palms up.  Then, cross one arm over the other, above the elbow.  Bend the bottom arm (bringing your hand towards the ceiling) and gently pull the outstretched arm to that side.  Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.  If you have more flexibility in your shoulders, you can also try Eagle arms, also pictured.

5. Bring one hand to your shoulder, palm up.  Stretch the other arm all the way up to the ceiling and then bend it at the elbow, clasping your hands together*.  Now from the hand on the shoulder, gently pull until you feel a good stretch, then hold.  Try holding about 30 seconds on each side.

Hope these help!  Readers, what little stretches feel great for your shoulders?

If you liked these stretches you may also enjoy: 7 stretches for neck and shoulders you can do at your desk

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Yoga for the Road (or a long-haul flight!)

Hello, remember me?

In case you have been wondering where I have been, the title of this post might give it away...  With my new job comes travel, including some of that most-dreaded type: the long-haul flight.

As I have gotten older (can you hear my bones creaking?) I have begun to like flying less and less.  Especially long haul.  The sheer exhaustion of going through airports, hauling luggage, the over-stimulation of the commercialised limbo that lies between the security check and the gate, and of course all of that only to find yourself packed like a sardine into a flying bus.

And is it just me, but have economy seats gotten smaller and closer together over the years? Meaning less leg room, arm room, and room in general!

Now there is really no way that sitting in a cramped chair with limited room to move for say 10, 11 or 14 (!!!!!!) hours is going to make your body happy.  Couple that with the time difference, dehydration and odd meal times/intervals, and no wonder you get to the other end feeling like you've survived a train wreck or just woken up from a coma.  And the back pain from my scoliosis doesn't help in the least.

Not to mention, of course, the psychological drama of spending 14 hours knowing that you're 33-thousand-feet up in THIN AIR.  I mean, why do they even TELL you that stuff?

As my physical and anxious discomfort over flying have grown over the years, so, it seems, has my need to travel.  In fact, in the first 6 months of 2011 I will fly long-haul at least 4 times, med-haul about 6, and do a few short hops as well, just for fun.  Bleurgh (which is not a word, but it should be).

So how does all this relate to yoga?  Well it doesn't I suppose, but I do.  As many other travellers have testified, I have found yoga to be super helpful in dealing with both the physical and mental discomforts of long journeys - whether by plane, train or automobile!  Here are a few things that I have found helpful:

  • Practice before you go: Doing yoga the day before or the day of a long trip makes a huge difference to how my body feels.  If I go into the trip well stretched, I seem to come out of it a lot better off.
  • Drink a lot: The air in airplanes is really dry and dehydrating.  Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up, or buy one once inside, and make sure you keep drinking regularly through the flight.  Avoid too much alcohol or coffee because these dehydrate you even more.  And if you, like me, process your water quickly and often - do the decent thing and get an aisle seat!
  • Pranayama: In case of anxiety, close your eyes and spend 5 minutes or so with your favourite pranayama.  Alternate nostril breathing is a good one.  Alternately, chant a mantra (even if just in your head).  I know, it sounds silly, but it's really very soothing.  A few om's go a long way at 33 thousand feet.  

Tune in next time for asanas for airplanes!  Happy Saturday everyone!