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Tight Shoulders, Back or Hips?

Tight Shoulders, Back or Hips? 

Shoulders, backs and hips are the “big three” when it comes to the body feeling stiff and achy. Chances are you’ve probably experienced tension or lack of mobility in one of these areas at some point – maybe even right now! We’ve got you covered with some mobility practices you can do in just a few minutes, and we’ve included videos for each one!

We’ve broken down each of the three areas into two different practices – one that can be done on the ground if you have a nice mat or carpet to cushion you, and one that can be done standing if you are somewhere you’d prefer not to hit the deck. Go for 5 – 10 reps of each of the dynamic exercises, and at least 5 deep breaths in the static exercises. Keep in mind that if you have an injury to your shoulders, hips or back, some of these exercises might not be appropriate. Ease your way into these as you need to , and if something feels painful, stop right away.

Shoulders on the Ground:

1. Half Kneeling Rib Pull – Stack your joints, tuck your tail, tighten your abs and squeeze your glutes. If your right leg is forward, take your left hand to the outside of your right leg, just above the knee. Take your right hand and slide it along the ribs to encourage thoracic rotation as you exhale. You can open up your right arm if you like. Inhale to return back to your start position.

2. Rainbow Sweeps – Side lying on your left, make a straight line with your body from your head through your heel. Bend your right knee so that it lines up with your hip – ideally have a yoga block or something else to prop up your knee so it is at the same level as your hip. Your left arm will stretch out horizontally in line with your shoulder, and the right arm will sweep overhead with your fingernails on the ground. Only sweep as far as you can without your right fingers leaving the floor.

3. Quadruped Scapular Stability Push Up – From hands and knees, brace your core to keep the spine in neutral. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slide them apart, finding as much range of motion as you can. Try not to let your spine change shape, your shoulders shrug up around your ears, or your elbows bend.

4. Quadruped Reach, Roll and Lift – From hands and knees, brace your core to keep the spine in neutral. “Reach” your right fingers as far out on the ground in front of you as you can, letting your shoulder shrug and “unpack”. Then “Roll” your palm up towards the sky to externally rotate the shoulder and “pack” it back down away from your ear. Finally, “Lift” your right arm up off the ground without letting the shoulder unpack or the elbow bend. Try not to let your spine change shape, your left shoulder shrug up around your ear, or your left elbow bend.

5. Floor Angels – On your back, bend your knees and plant your feet in line with your hips. Brace your core to keep your spine in neutral. Take your arms out at 90 degree angles, and try to get your entire arms from finger tips to shoulders in contact with the ground. Slide your arms up overhead so that your elbows straighten as much as you can. This one can be a bit challenging to get your whole arm on the ground and find a full range of motion while keeping a neutral spine. Take your time, try to keep your breath relaxed, and be patient with yourself.


Shoulders Standing:

1. Standing Rib Pull – Step your right foot on an elevated surface, take your left hand to the outside of your right leg, just above the knee. Take your right hand and slide it along the ribs to encourage thoracic rotation as you exhale. You can open up your right arm if you like. Inhale to return back to your start position.

2. Egyptians – Take your arms out horizontally in line with your shoulders. Externally rotate one shoulder, while you internally rotate the other. Switch back and forth, trying to make a muscular effort in the shoulders.

3. Scapular Stability Push Up at the Wall- Place your hands on the wall at a slight angle down from your shoulders, and brace your core to keep the spine in neutral. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slide them apart, finding as much range of motion as you can. Try not to let your spine change shape, your shoulders shrug up around your ears, or your elbows bend.

4. Reach, Roll and Lift – Brace your core to keep the spine in neutral. “Reach” your fingers as far up the wall as you can, letting your shoulders shrug and “unpack”. Then “Roll” your palms away from the wall to externally rotate the shoulders and “pack” them back down away from your ears. Finally, “Lift” your arms off the wall without letting the shoulders unpack or the elbows bend.

5. Wall Angels – With your back against the wall, brace your core to keep your spine in neutral. Take your arms out at 90 degree angles, and try to get your entire arm from finger tips to shoulder in contact with the wall. Slide your arms up overhead so that your elbows straighten as much as you can.

Hips on the Ground:

1. Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – Stack your joints, tuck your tail, tighten your abs and squeeze your glutes. Keep the tuck, tighten and squeeze as you exhale and take your hips slightly forward. Feel the stretch in the down leg’s hip flexor.

2. Half Kneeling Hamstring Stretch – Stretch one leg out straight in front of you while the opposite knee stays on the ground. Hinge your hips back as you exhale into the stretch.

3. Shin Rolls – Make a “90/90” shape with your legs with your right shin forward, and rotate through the hips to reverse to your left shin forward. You can use your hands on the ground for support as needed, as you alternate back and forth.

4. Tactical Frog – With your knees and elbows on the ground, walk your knees out until they are shoulder width or slightly wider. Brace your core to keep a neutral spine, and make a muscular effort to “push” and “pull” the hips forward and back.

5. Thread the Needle – On your back, cross your right ankle over the left knee. Thread your hands around your left thigh and draw the right shin toward your chest. Keep your sacrum on the ground. If your hands don’t reach easily, you can thread a yoga strap through and use that.


Hips Standing:

1. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch – Step one foot forward into a long lunge position, tuck your tail, tighten your abs and squeeze your glutes. Keep the tuck, tighten and squeeze as you exhale and bend your back knee slightly. Feel the stretch in the back leg’s hip flexor.

2. Iron Curtsy – Step your right foot forward and line the right heel up with your left toes. Keep your right leg straight and let your left knee bend as you hinge your hips back. If you have a dowel or some other stick, you can use this to help you maintain a neutral spine by keeping the stick touching the back of your head, in between your shoulder blades, and your sacrum.

3. Cossack – Take a very wide stance with your feet, shift over to the right, bending your right knee and coming into a squat on the right. The left leg will stay straight with the toes and knees pointing straight up. Pull yourself side to side, and increase the range of motion very gradually.

4. Prying Squat – With your feet shoulder width or slightly wider, imagine cracking the floor in half between your feet to create space in your hips and get your outer hip muscles turned on. Brace your core to keep a neutral spine, pull yourself down into as deep a squat as you can and imagine lengthening the thigh bones out of the hip sockets.

5. Standing Thread the Needle – From standing, cross your right ankle over the left knee, and hinge your hips back like you are reaching for a chair that’s been pulled away from you. Keep your spine long, and stretch your arms forward for a balance challenge, or hold on to a post, doorframe or wall nearby.

Back on the Ground:

1. Cat/Cow – On hands and knees, inhale to arch your spine (cow) and exhale to round (cat). Increase the range of motion gradually.

2. Rib Pull – Lying on your side, bend your top leg at a 90 degree angle (support your top knee with a yoga block, pillow or foam roller). Use your bottom hand to stabilize the top knee in place, and take your top hand to your ribs. Inhale, and then exhale to rotate the spine reaching your top shoulder toward the ground.

3. Cobra – Lying on your stomach, take your hands underneath your shoulders, tuck your pelvis slightly, engage your abdominal muscles, and squeeze your glutes. Keep your inner thighs squeezing toward each other, with your knees and tops of your feet facing the ground. Lift your chest off the ground as though you were wrapping your back around an imaginary beach ball. Keep your shoulders down away from your ears – it’s ok to bend your elbows if you need to.

4. Child’s Pose with Lat Stretch – On your knees, bring your knees wider than your body and your big toes toward each other. Sit your hips back toward your heels, and reach your arms out on the ground in front of you. Walk your hands slightly to the right, and keep sitting your left hip back toward your left heel to feel the stretch on your left side.

5. Straddle QL Stretch – Sit with your legs in a “V” shape, and sit as tall as you can through the spine. If you have a hard time sitting up straight, you can do this with your back against a wall for support. Stretch your torso over to the right, and imagine your left “sit bone” is glued to the floor. You should feel a stretch in your low back (quadratus lumborum “QL” muscle) on the left side.


Back Standing:

1. Standing Cat/Cow – Standing tall with your joints stacked, inhale to arch your spine (cow) and exhale to round (cat). Increase the range of motion gradually.

2. Standing T-Spine Rotation – Standing with tall posture, root your right foot to the ground, and squeeze your glutes so that your hips extend fully. Inhale, and then exhale to rotate your torso to the left as much as possible.

3. Stargazer – Standing tall, interlace your hands behind your back, tuck your pelvis slightly, engage your abdominal muscles, and squeeze your glutes. Keep your inner thighs squeezing toward each other, ideally squeeze a yoga block, towel or coregeous ball for added feedback. Inhale and extend your spine, bringing your chest toward the sky and face looking up to the stars.

4. Forward Fold with Breath – On an exhale, fold in half and reach your fingers toward your toes. Inhale and come halfway up, lengthening the spine as you imagine lifting the ribcage away from the hips. Exhale and fold again.

5. Boomerang at the Wall – Stand about a foot away from a wall, and bring your right hand to the wall keeping your elbow bent slightly. Stretch your torso over to the right, and take your left hand to the wall with your fingers pointing down (your arms should look like you are making a “C” shape). Keep your hips, knees and ankles joint stacked. You should feel a stretch in your low back (quadratus lumborum “QL” muscle) and through your left armpit (latissimus dorsi “lat” muscle) on the left side.

Just a few minutes a day and you’ll be feeling more mobility in the back, hips and shoulders in no time!

Strength, love and happy stretching!

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