It may sound strange, but this yoga move can help relieve tension in your back – perfect for those working in an office all day, says Claire Munnings
The word flossing conjures up different images for different people – depending on your age, it will either make you think of your dental hygiene or a crazy dance move that all the youngsters were doing last year. But there’s another form of flossing that should also be on your radar – shoulder flossing.
This yoga move is growing in popularity as more and more people look for different ways to soothe an aching back and neck caused by our modern way of living.
“These days we spend so much of our lives hunched over our smartphones, computers or steering wheels, and this means a big portion of our day is spent in a forward bend. Because the weight of our head is so heavy in proportion to the rest of us, a big strain is placed on our shoulders in this position,” explains Kat Farrants, founder of online yoga platform Movement For Modern Life (movementformodernlife.com). “For this reason, it’s never been so important to keep our shoulders mobile and our chests open.”
For Kat, shoulder flossing is a great move to relieve tension and stretch out this part of your body. “This move can really help to open the chest and upper back after a day in the office or a few hours driving,” she says. “The shoulders don’t often get their full range of movement so it’s great to keep them mobile in this way.” So what exactly does it involve? Follow Kat’s step-by-step guide to find out:
Step one: Hold a belt or strap in your hands in front of you, with your arms stretched out straight and your hands wide.
Step two: Now, move the belt slowly over your head to open the shoulders and chest. The movement should finish with your hands behind you, so you have completed nearly a full circle with your arms. Make sure your torso stays in the centre as you do this.
Step three: Now slowly return your arms to their starting position.
Step four: To get full-shoulder mobility, move the lead to the right and left while you complete the move. Repeat for a minute or so each day.
Part of what’s so great about this move is its simplicity. “This is a move that’s so easy to do,” Kat adds. “I do it on a dog walk when I have my dog lead on me. It’s a great warm up in the morning and a lovely move for a quick desk break as well. It can be done standing, walking or seated, so is good for everyone, regardless of their mobility or flexibility levels.”
To get the most out of the move, Kat advises starting with your hands quite wide on the strap. You can then move your hands in very slowly over a period of weeks. Be careful not to over exert yourself – the shoulder girdle is fragile and you shouldn’t go beyond your natural range of motion.
So, there you have it – a move that will help release tension and ease strain in your back, as well as have you chuckling at its name.
Yoga teacher and wellness guru Annie Clarke of Mind Body Bowl (mindbodybowl.co.uk) shares a few more yoga moves to help soothe pain and tension in your back and shoulders
Thread the needle
Come onto all fours, stacking your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your wrists.
Reach your right arm up, twisting gently through the upper torso. Then thread that arm underneath the opposite armpit until the back of your shoulder comes to the floor. Stay here for a few breaths, stretching the upper back, and then release and repeat on the other side.
This is a lovely pose to lengthen the spine and can feel really restorative. Sit on your knees with the tops of the feet flat to the floor and then lower your hips towards your heels. If you can’t sit all the way back, you can place a cushion underneath your hips. Reach your arms forward along the ground and place your forehead down so the back of your neck stays long. If your head doesn’t lower all the way down, you can place a block or blanket beneath your forehead for support.
Sit comfortably on the floor. Gently lower your chin to your chest and let your head hang forwards. Consciously release the tension from the jaw and take some slow breaths. Now take your left ear to your left shoulder and hold for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Reach both arms over your head and interlace your hands. Turning the backs of your hands to the sky, start to lower your hands in line with your head and round your upper back as though trying to create space between your shoulder blades. Hold here for a few breaths.
Next, extend one arm in the air, bending the elbow so your hand comes behind your head. Lengthen the opposite hand down, then bend that elbow so the hands move towards each other. If you can reach, clasp the hands together. Hold a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.
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