Need to open your chest and strengthen your upper back? Stabilize your shoulder girdle and extend your spine? This series is for you! You will need a roller, overball or bolster. Remember to listen to your body while you work and move in a range that feels comfortable and pain free. Familiarize yourself with some of the muscles you are about to engage and understand flexion vs. extension when you read the rest of our Extension series!
Lets start with a chest and shoulder opening stretch to prep your front body before moving into extension. Lie on your back with your spine in neutral. Knees can be bent or straight. Place your arms even with your shoulders and bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle. Take a few deep breaths here. Let your arms rest into gravity. This can also be done on a roller for more of a stretch.
When you feel ready begin to move your arms overhead bringing, your finger tips together overhead. Maintain the 90 degree bend in your elbows as you move. Return your arms to your cactus start position. Continue to breath deeply and move slowly. Repeat 4 times.
Return to your original cactus position, elbows even with your shoulders. Keep your elbow on the floor and bent to 90 degrees. Start to rotate your upper arm so your finger tips point towards the ceiling and your forearms come off the floor. Continue rotating until your fingertips point down towards the tops of your feet. Reach out through your elbow points into width as you move. Return your arms to cactus. Repeat 4 times.
Start by placing the ball, roller or bolster under the middle of your ribcage, right around the bottom tips of your shoulder blades. Bend your knees, feet flat on the mat with hands behind your head for support. With a long neck extend over the prop and feel your ribs fan open. Take an inhale in extension. On your exhale come back up towards neutral a bit. Inhale and return to extension. Repeat 5-10 times.
Flexion and Extension in Sphinx
Set up in sphinx position with your elbows under your shoulders, forearms parallel to each other, palms wide on the mat and legs long and connected.
Keeping your legs long and reaching back, exhale and round your spine into flexion. Draw your abdominals in towards your spine and maintain width through your collar bones and shoulder girdle.
Reaching out through your head and tail, inhale your spine into extension. Continue to maintain width and space in your shoulder girdle and spin your collar bones up towards the ceiling.
This exercise has four steps. Take your time to complete each one carefully. Start lying down on your abdominals, legs long and connected underneath you, arms long by your side and a towel underneath your forehead for comfort. Keep the tops of your feet resting on the floor for the entire exercise.
1. Start by noticing your shoulder blades naturally rounding forward over your ribcage and resting toward the floor. On an exhale open you collar bones away from the floor and feel your scapula engage onto the back of your ribs.
2. Extend through the pinky line of your arms, feeling how your arms connect to the bottom tip of your scapula. Take care not to pull your shoulders aggressively down your back. Look for space and connectedness instead.
3. Float your arms off of the floor until they are right beside your side seems with your palms facing in towards the center line of your body. Check in with your shoulder blades and collar bones to ensure they did not loose their width or start to roll forward.
4. On an exhale draw your abdominal wall towards your spine and lengthen through the crown of your head so much that you bring your forehead one centimeter off the towel. There are no wrinkles in the back of your neck and you should feel connected through the center line of your torso from head to tail, as well as through the width of your shoulder girdle and mid back.
Relax everything to the floor, allowing your shoulders to round forward. Repeat 10 times. For a variation, rotate your palms toward the floor and then the ceiling after Step 4. You can also add 1lb weights to this.
T is for Traps.
Continue to lie on your abdominals with your forehead resting on the towel. Legs are long and connected underneath you and your arms extend out to a T level with your shoulder sockets .Flip your palms up, pointing your thumbs towards the ceiling and resting the pinky blade of your hand on the floor.
Start by drawing your abdominal wall up away from the floor for support and then begin to reach out through your arms trying to increase your wing span. Continue reaching out as you float your arms up off the floor. You are looking to find equal parts up and out in the work in your arms and across your back. Return your arms to the floor but keep the stabilization through your torso. Repeat 12 times.
On your 12th one lift and hold and draw small circles. Circle 6 times in each direction, continuing to expand across the width of your chest and back.
Relax. To take a brief counter stretch before the next exercise, curl into child's pose.
Lying on your abdominals, place your hands underneath your shoulders with your elbows in towards your body. Find a strong connection between the heel of your hand and the mat both on the pink finger and the thumb side. Draw your abdominal wall away from the floor.
Start by floating your head up in line with your spine. Connect to the length of your center line.
Then extend forward through the crown of your head, arching your back up into extension while reaching long through your legs and pelvis. Keep your low belly drawing your hip points toward one another and resist collapsing into your lumbar spine. Check for no wrinkles in the back of your neck. Use the support of your arms as you need. You will feel your front ribs expand and your heart opening forward.
Roll down and return your forehead to the mat. For an extra challenge pause half way to the mat in your roll down and lift your hands off the mat. Hold for a breath and then return your torso to the mat with your hands hovering.
At the end of this series you should feel connected and open! Check out all of our at-home exercise instructions for a happier, healthier life!