No one told me that one of the side effects of having a new baby was stiffness like all get out in the upper body and shoulders! It's chronic in the first few years. I remember being 5 or 6 months postpartum and catching sight of myself in the mirror: my shoulders were rounded and hunched forward, and I seemed to be working on a pretty impressive Dowager's hump for someone in their thirties. *grimace face*
When we teach our regular postnatal workshops, this is a common complaint. The many hours we spend holding, rocking, cuddling, and milking our babes in the front plane of the body result in tiredness, tightness, and shoulder-rounding of epic proportions. One very useful pose to help iron out the shoulder space is downward-facing dog. But that pose alone isn't enough. And Lauren and I know how hard it is to roll your mat out in the early months of new motherhood (mine collected dust in the corner for a goooood while.) That's why I LOVE these 3 moves, explained below: they take all of 10 minutes to do (at most), you can do them at the wall with no mat or other props, you don't need to be in yoga clothes, and they will honestly, truly, actually help your shoulders feel better / stronger / looser in all the best ways.
STANDING WALL SHOULDER PULLS
This may look deceptively easy, but it requires some muscular engagement. Stand facing a wall, close enough that you can let your head drop onto the wall. Bring your hands up, a little wider than shoulder width apart. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, contract the muscles in your arms and shoulders by pressing in with your hands and pulling DOWN, as if you were *trying* to slide your hands down the wall, but they don't actually move. You could contract and release with your breath a few times (inhale, soften; exhale, contract) or you could simply hold the contraction for a few rounds of breath.
WALL CHEST STRETCH
Stand next to the wall, feet parallel. Standing closer to the wall will result in more sensation, so if you need to go slower here, step a little farther from the wall. Reach your arm closes to the wall back and press it into the wall, palm facing in, thumb up. You can bring your other hand to the wall, in front of you (as I'm doing in the photo) or your can wrap your hand around your ribcage closest to the wall and gently pull your ribcage forward. That feels pretty nice. Stay here for anywhere between 5 rounds of breath to 2-3 minutes. Repeat on the other side. BONUS: tip your chin slightly up and away from the wall as you hold to get a sweet little neck stretch.
DOWNWARD-FACING WALL PRESS
Stand facing the wall and fold forward at the waist, making your body into an L-shape. Walk your hands down the wall until they are parallel to your shoulders. (If your hands are higher up than your shoulders, there is more pressure on your rotator cuff which may feel a little pinchy.) Find softness in your knees or even bend them a bit, as I'm doing in the photos. In the starting position, keep your arms straight. You might squirm a bit here and do cat-cow movements with your spine or rock your hips side to side.
For part II of this movement, inhale and begin to bend your elbows outward, pressing your hands into the wall. As you exhale, straighten your arms again, squeezing your shoulder blades toward one another as you do. (These are essentially down-dog wall push-ups!) Repeat between 5-20 times.
When your shoulders need some love, opening, and attention, try this little sequence. Do you have another favorite move or pose for shoulder relief? (Aside from Netflix and wine; we already know about that one.) We'd love to hear your tricks, tips, and favorite poses for shoulder opening. And if you try this sequence and love it, let us know that, too!