If you're active and enjoy sports like tennis, weight lifting, or golf, then you know that your shoulders receive a good workout.
If you're sitting at the desk all day long writing, or driving the car for hours is your daily activity - you have noticed that your shoulders tend to bend forward.
With your arms in constant motion in these and other activities, not only will they build endurance but they also grow stiff and tight. A good stretch routine for your shoulder region is always a good idea. Here is a selection of postures inspired from yoga that will encourage muscle and joint release.
Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
This is a yoga position that is a variation of Child Pose (Balasana). Due to the nature of the posture, you will feel more of a stretch in your shoulders, particularly the rear (posterior) deltoids.
Start by coming to your hands and knees. Your hips will be aligned over your knees initially, while your shoulders are directly over your wrists. Step your hands forward and allow your chest to slowly sink down toward the floor. Take your time with this transition; gauge the intensity of sensation in the back portion of your shoulders. As you are able, keep your hips aligned over your knees. Create a reaching feeling with your arms out toward the front edge of your yoga mat. Once you have come to the desired intensity in your rear deltoids, hold the posture, and take ten slow deep breaths. This is to ensure a good release of the tight muscle region.
This posture will also affect your chest. Your pectoral muscles will also receive a nice stretch as you hold this variation of Child Pose.
This is another shoulder stretch that affects the front (anterior) deltoids area. Not only does this part of the shoulders get tense engaging in sports, but also during routine activities.
If you find yourself sitting at a desk for long periods of time writing or typing on a computer, your shoulders tend to hunch forward. If you're a long-distance driver or like to ride bikes, the same thing can happen to your posture.
This may develop into stiff muscles and ligaments that join the pecs and shoulders together. A stretch like this next one should be helpful.
Begin this posture by lying on your stomach. Extend your left arm out to the side so that it is perpendicular to the rest of your body. Place your right hand under your shoulder. Slowly press your right hand into the floor and carefully roll onto your left side. You will immediately feel the stretch in your left shoulder region. As in the previous posture, gauge the intensity of this stretch. For more sensation, continue to roll onto your side. For less feeling, guide your torso more toward the floor. Once you have found the proper sensation, hold the position for ten slow breaths.
If you need more stability in this particular stretch, lift your right leg, bend your knee, turn your knee toward the ceiling, then set your foot down behind your extended left leg on the floor. This will provide some balance so you can easily hold this posture. If the angle of your left arm does not seem conducive to this stretch, you may want to adjust it. Rather than extending your left arm directly out to the side, change the angle by bringing it down toward the side of your body. Once you have completed the stretch and deep breaths on this first side, repeat the position on the other shoulder.
This next shoulder stretch returns the focus to your rear deltoids. This position will also have a positive effect on the side (lateral) portion of your shoulders in addition to your upper back.
Lie on your belly to begin this posture. Prop yourself up on your elbows and forearms. Align yourself so that your arms are parallel to one another and your shoulders will be directly over your elbows. You will resemble the Sphinx monument in this initial position. Next, swing your left arm toward your right elbow. (Your fingers will point to that elbow.) Do the same with your right arm; swing that arm toward your left elbow. It will lie in front of the left arm. Reaching with your fingers, extend your arms outward creating a "criss-cross" effect with your limbs. As you guide yourself into this position, you will notice the stretch in your shoulders. Pause when you have reached the desired intensity of the stretch and take ten slow deep breaths. When you are done with this side, you will want to cross the arms in the opposite direction (left arm in front of the right arm) to create a balance in this muscle release.
These are shoulder stretches that you can practice several times a week. Notice an increase in flexibility, range of motion, and overall improved posture as you return to your sports and activities.