Tension seems to pervade our everyday lives and our bodies pay the price. The result is pain -- both physical and mental. As Desiree Rumbaugh mentions in the quote above, becoming more connected to your body can free you from the tension, and ultimately, the pain. This is just one aspect of the physical benefits of yoga -- the freedom of the body from knots and negative habitual patterns.
Anusara Yoga practitioner Desiree Rumbaugh has been helping folks do just that using her brand of therapeutic yoga in her Yoga to the Rescue series. Her DVDs offer clear instruction, excellent advice for releasing tension and building strength, and short practices that can easily be incorporated into even the more time-challenged person's day.
The latest addition to Desiree Rumbaugh's Yoga to the Rescue series (Yoga to the Rescue Feel Good from Head to Toe and Yoga to the Rescue for Back Pain) targets the neck and shoulders. The DVD, appropriately entitled Yoga to the Rescue for Neck and Shoulders, offers what the other two DVDs in the series didn't -- the best of both worlds. You can choose to practice to either the 30-minute tutorial, which breaks down each pose, or the 30-minute flow series, which takes you through the full routine without breaks.
I'm a fan of Desiree Rumbaugh and her DVDs, and this new release didn't disappoint. The practices offer the perfect balance of building strength and flexibility by combining pushups and crunches along with time-honored yoga postures such as sphinx, cobra, and down dog. Rumbaugh emphasizes critical form enhancements to transform your practice into a healing one. If you need quick relief, you can head to the tutorial index and pick from the full selection of postures or you can practice the flowing sequence regularly to both treat and prevent neck and shoulder pain.
Once again, I bow to Desiree with a big Namaste for producing yet another wonderful video. If you've logged too many hours at the computer and/or suffer from neck and/or shoulder pain, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Desiree's Yoga to the Rescue for Neck and Shoulders. Your upper body will thank you!
If you'd like some more help with upper body stress and strain, I also highly recommend Gary Kraftsow's DVD, Viniyoga Therapy for the Upper Back, Neck and Shoulders. Unlike Desiree, who practices in the Anusara style, Gary practices yoga in the tradition of Krishnamacharya, a style which is still practiced in India today to help a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional ailments.
If you're in desperate need of help -- or you need some postures to sprinkle throughout your day when you take computer breaks -- roll out your mat and try any one of these:
- One of my favorite postures for shoulder tension is Puppy Stretch. Typically I modify the pose by placing the palms of my hands behind my neck in prayer pose.
- Gradual arm circles are a wonderful way to open the shoulder area. Start standing in Mountain pose. Take a comfortable step forward with one foot. Swing the opposite arm back and forth gradually until it rotates around in a circle. Do this in both directions and then come back to Mountain before doing the other side.
- Scissoring the arms is a nice compliment to arm circles. Stand with your feet wide apart, arms up at shoulder height (the elbows should be soft, not locked). Scissor the arms in front, alternating which arm is on top.
- This "Circle of Joy" video is perfect for when you're sitting at your desk. Click here to access the free video.
- For upper body tension, I like to practice a Tadasana variation with cactus arms (arms are at shoulder height, elbows bent, palms facing out, fingertips pointed towards the ceiling). Start by coming into Tadasana -- raising your arms up from the sides while simultaneously raising your heels. After your palms come together to touch at the top of the inhale, bring your arms into cactus position on the exhale. You can stay up on your toes or bring your feet flat on the floor as you move between palms together raised above your head and cactus arms. Hold cactus arms the final time for about 3-5 breaths, then come back to standing.
- Cactus arms for shoulder rotation can be done while lying on the floor. Lie with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and bring your arms into cactus position (also called goal post, by the way). On an exhale, keep your elbows and upper arms on floor, bringing the palms down. On an inhale bring the palms up. Continue for 5 rounds in all.
- Another one of my favorite upper body stretches is the simple standing extension. Stand a few feet away from a waist high table. Inhale your arms up and then exhale coming down so your hands rest on the table in front of you. Let your upper body hang. Be sure that your legs are in line with your hips in this pose.
- Yogi Andrey Lappa offers an excellent selection of arm stretches in this Yoga Journal article.
- I also like some of the movements from the Kundalini tradition for the neck and shoulders -- head rolls and figure eights (allow your nose to draw a figure 8 in the air -- think Stevey Wonder). Another wonderful tension reliever for the upper body involves lying with your legs bent feet flat on the floor. Raise your arms up and shake your wrists as vigorously as you can. Continue for 3 minutes. When you're done, bring your arms back down to floor in a T position (arms at shoulder height) and feel the energy running through your upper body.
May you be knot, tension, and pain-free!