Raise your hand if you often find yourself slouching at your desk. We spend so much time sitting, typing, driving, binging Netflix, and so on, it takes quite a toll on our spines—more than we realize.
Slouching in your chair creates an unhealthy curve in your upper spine, closes up your shoulders, compresses your neck, and decreases blood flow. It also puts a lot of pressure on your lower back and hips as your body has to compensate, redistribute the weight, and figure out the right bone and muscle alignment.
This type of repetitive motion can cause all sorts of issues, from headaches to brain fog, so here are the best shoulder openers you can do to counteract your daily slouching and prevent problems and injuries down the road.
A Simple Stretch
We’ll start with the simplest one. Find a stable surface to lean on, place your hands firmly on top of it, and step three to five feet away (you might need to adjust, depending on the height and shape of the object). Ground your feet to the floor and bend your knees if needed.
Drop your torso through your arms and feel your shoulders, armpits, and side body open and stretch. You can go as deep as your body allows. Use your breath to guide you and bring awareness to every cell in your body. Stay here for five to 10 deep breaths, and then slowly bring your feet closer, bending your elbows to exit the pose safely.
This is a stretch you can perform anytime, anywhere—in your office, at home, or taking a walk in the park—and it doesn’t require any special workout clothes or a huge chunk of your time. Hold on to a firm object and spend two to three minutes stretching your shoulders. You’ll feel so much better afterward.
One of the most efficient shoulder stretches is simply interlacing the fingers behind your back. You’ll feel your chest and neck open up as your shoulders rotate, and your shoulder blades create space for your upper back.
If this feels intense, continue to focus on your breathing and let your body do the work. If it’s easy, take it to the next level by extending your arms as far as you can, locking out your elbows, and pushing your clasped hands as far away from your body as possible. Even an inch will feel like you’ve moved them miles away. Over time, your body will open up and allow you to go deeper—be patient and don’t force it.
You can perform this stretch standing or sitting, with one leg bent or both legs straight. If you want a deeper stretch, you can do a standing forward fold. With your knees bent or straight, interlace your hands behind your back and let them fall over your head as you bend forward, using gravity to open your shoulders even more. Use your breath to take you to and past your limits.
You probably performed this stretch in physical education class when you were a kid, and it’s still just as effective as it was back then. Bend one arm and place the other, extended, between your bicep and forearm. Before you stretch it out, move your shoulders away from your ears, and feel the stretch in your neck. Just this motion can be plenty, so stay here and breathe, while you feel your muscles work.
To go a step further, use your bent arm to squeeze and pull your extended one gently, and then stretch it with every inhale and exhale. Make the stretch as deep your body allows, and then repeat on the other arm.
Also called an “instinctive” stretch, this is one almost everyone does when they wake up and feel stiff, or after sitting in the same position on a long flight or in a traffic jam. Inhale and raise your arms over your head, interlace your fingers, and then stretch it all out. Feel the energy flow through from your toes to the top of your head, making you feel like you’ve grown an inch taller.
Just the simple motion of reaching your hands over your head and opening your torso stretches your whole front and side body and allows oxygen to reach every cell, feeding it with fresh energy.
Bonus points if you arch your back and push your arms backward into a backbend.
If you have a bit more flexibility in your upper body, performing advanced stretches is important, as everyone needs to progress as their body allows it. Using your hands as leverage to lift your whole body can work wonders for stretching your chest, shoulders, neck, and upper back. The same as any other pose, this stretch offers levels of progression.
Start in a sitting position, with your legs bent or extended, and then place your hands on the floor behind you, with your fingers facing forward. Roll your shoulders up and back, and you’ll instantly feel the stretch activate your front shoulder muscles. The more you extend your arms, the more intense the stretch will be. You can stay here or try lifting your hips, and then stretch deeper with every breath.
Because we spend so much time hunched over laptops and phones, just stretching and opening the shoulders can be intense work. In addition to these stretches, do some shoulder rolls occasionally to increase blood flow, relax your upper body, and loosen your muscles.