Feeling the effects of literally carrying around your life on your shoulders? Tight shoulders make postures like Handstand, Wheel, Camel, and Upward-facing Dog difficult. Toting around heavy purses, backpacks, shopping bags, and yoga mats can weigh you down and do a number on your shoulders and upper back. Over time, heavy bags cause asymmetry in your posture and wreak havoc with your low back, hips, and hamstrings.
Here are some tips to keep your shoulders, and the posture they create, in tip-top shape:
1) Alternate Sides
If you carry a heavy purse or shoulder bag, switch the shoulder that bears the weight every other day. Monday left, Tuesday right, and so on. This will go a long way toward preventing one shoulder from dipping lower than the other and help maintain your posture.
2) Straighten Up
When you carry a heavy bag, there is a tendency to hunker down under the weight. Eventually this will cause your shoulders and upper back to round down and in toward the chest, restricting your breathing. Soften the shoulders down and back with space between the bottoms of the earlobes and the tops of the shoulders. Keep the chest open and knit the ribs together. Engage the core to protect the low back. Stand tall. Breathe deeply.
3) Lighten Up
Do you really need everything that’s in that hefty pack? What can you replace with a much lighter option? I used to cart my laptop around with me everywhere because as a freelancer I regularly go to a few different client sites. The weight of my laptop was literally breaking down my shoulders. I invested in a much lighter iPad, use the Dropbox app to store documents rather than carry any paper, read my books on the subway via Kindle rather than carry bulky paper books, and empty my bag every night to keep excess weight from building up from day to day.
4) Make use of a wall
One of my yoga pals taught me an amazing exercise to open the shoulders. Stand facing a wall. Extend your right arm to the side so that the palm of the hand touches the wall at shoulder height. Leave your hand where it is. Now rotate your chest to the left so that your body is perpendicular to the wall while your entire arm and hand are flush against the wall. Take 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side.
Follow these 4 guidelines to keep your shoulders open and pain free. Your posture (and your Handstand!) will thank you for it.