Got a stiff back from those hours of bending over to carry your baby out of the cot, slouching from breastfeeding or hunching over the screen? To relieve the tension in your neck, back and shoulders, these yoga poses should do the trick.
Recommended and demonstrated by True Yoga instructor Rohit Mistry, the poses are nothing short of relaxing. Just the kind of TLC your body needs after a long, hard day of work. After doing these exercises, your backbends will improve too!
The plan: Every day (or as often as you can), do the poses in this sequence, breathing in and out through the nose.
Watch this video for the full sequence.
(Also read: 2 bad habits every new parent must kick to prevent back pain)
This pose warms up the muscles of the spine, relaxes the neck and back, and is great to start off any yoga practice.
How to do: Get into all fours with knees hip-width apart, toes tucked under. Palms are directly under shoulders.
Cat pose: Exhale, round spine up towards ceiling and tuck tailbone under.
Cow pose: Inhale, arch back, relax belly and let tailbone move up towards ceiling. Do this for 10 rounds or until your spine feels more flexible.
This pose reduces stiffness in the lower back. It also strengthens the arms and shoulders, and stretches muscles in the shoulders, chest and abs.
How to do: Lie on stomach with legs straight behind you. Squeeze legs together as tightly as you can. Place palms few inches away from shoulders. Gently push the floor away and lift torso up. Look up towards ceiling, pushing rib cage forward and up as you inhale. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing normally.
Modification: To reduce the intensity of the stretch, place hands 30cm forward.
3. Full locust pose
This pose decreases stiffness in the middle back, and strengthens the core, back, glutes, hamstrings, triceps, traps and deltoids.
How to do: Lie on stomach and extend arms fully like an aeroplane, keeping legs together tightly behind you. Inhale and lift arms, shoulders, chest, legs towards ceiling. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing normally.
4. Camel pose
This pose opens up the hips, stretches the hip flexors, and improves spine mobility. It also improves posture – great for those with drooping shoulders or hunched backs – by strengthening and stretching the shoulders.
How to do: Kneel at front of mat, knees hip-width apart, toes tucked under. Place both palms on hips. Gently push hips forward and look up to ceiling. Inhale, lift chest up. Exhale, bend spine backwards. Slowly move right hand down to grab right heel, and left hand down to grab left heel. Exhale, push hips forward slightly. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing normally. As you inhale, focus on expanding the ribcage.
Modification: If you find it hard to touch your heels, lean back slightly and use hands to support your lower back as you look upwards.
5. Rabbit pose
This pose lengthens and strengthens the spine. It also stretches the back, arms and shoulders.
How to do: Sit in kneeling position, hips on heels. Reach behind and grab heels tightly with palms. Bring chin towards throat. Exhale and round spine, bringing head down until top of head is on floor, and forehead is against the knees. Pulling the heels, lift hips up as high as you can. Make sure you’re pulling the heels to take your body weight off the head. Lift shoulders away from ears. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing normally.
Modification: If the above feels too intense, use hands to support the top of your head instead of grabbing your heels.
6. Supine spine twisting
This pose lengthens, relaxes and realigns the spine. It also opens tight shoulders and massages the abdominal organs to improve digestion.
How to do: Lie on back, arms out in T shape. Bend knees up, feet flat on floor. Cross right leg over left leg. If you can, place right foot under left calf. Slowly bend both legs to the left, and turn head to the right. Hold twist for 30 to 60 seconds. Uncross legs and switch sides.
Modification: To reduce the intensity of the stretch, uncross legs and keep knees together as you twist.
7. Savasana (Corpse pose)
Lie on your back, straighten legs, and let arms rest naturally by your side. Hold for a few moments, breathing normally.
A version of this article first appeared on Shape Singapore.
(Photos: Frenchescar Lim/SPH)
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