Before I started yoga around mid 2014, my main form of exercise came from tennis. It never failed to give me a good workout but I always overlooked the importance of warming up and cooling down. As such, there was minimal stretching done before and after. And this is perhaps the main reason why my body is so tight everywhere. In particular, I’d like to highlight the chest and shoulders.
The biggest problem about having tight chest and shoulders is that I have genuine trouble lifting my arms straight up. This is because the tightness in the pectoralis major and minor and shoulder girdle limits my ability to perform shoulder flexion and chest extension. This is a significant because many yoga poses require the lifting of the arms. Basic poses like downward facing dog and warrior 1 requires a lot more energy to go into. Even lifting my arms in sun salutations can prove to be more challenging than it looks. Worse, it prevented me from going into a normal headstand.
Fortunately, this can be worked on and the flexibility in these areas has improved. Here are 3 of my favourite poses/exercises to go to when I want a good stretch.
Extended puppy pose
Extending my arms out and dropping my chest towards the ground really helps to work on the chest and shoulders. Bonus: It works on the back too!
Downward facing dog
One of the most basic yoga poses is actually a lot more difficult to master than it appears to be. Not only does it require strength and core, it requires a good deal of flexibility. Moving into and staying in this pose has helped me to open my chest and shoulders. One of the best poses to work on multiple parts of your body.
Assisted one arm lift
This is something that I figured out myself. First, lift the right arm up and bend the elbow. Then use the left arm to push your right elbow backward. This is easy to do and can be done anywhere.
The condition of our body right now is a result of what we have or have not done in the past. Therefore it is important to keep in mind what your body can and cannot do. Do not compare with others, focus on yourself and the improvements will come. 🙂
Ryan Ong (200hr YTT Weekend/Jul 2015)