Shoveling all that blizzard snow is great exercise, but it can leave the upper body tense and sore. Tight neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles can contribute to tension headaches, overall back pain, and poor posture. Try these simple stretches at home or at work to release the neck, shoulders, and upper back, and to alleviate any associated pains.
Neck lengthener - Drop the chin straight down toward the chest while relaxing the shoulders down and back. Gently press on the back of the head to lengthen the neck and upper back muscles. Hold for three to six breaths.
Reverse Namaste - Place the back of the hands on the lower back. Snake the hands up the back palms pressing toward each other, pinkies pressing into the spine, and relax the shoulders down away from the ears. Hold for three to six breaths.
Puppy pose - Begin on all fours with the hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Keeping the hips over the knees, begin to walk the hands forward and lower the chest toward the floor. Keep the arms straight and use the exhales to lengthen the shoulders and open the upper back. Hold for three to six breaths.
Trap/neck stretch - Tip right ear toward right shoulder while keeping the shoulders relaxed down away from the ears. Gently pull the left wrist across the body at hip level to lengthen the left trapezius. Hold for three to six breaths. Repeat in the opposite direction.
These stretches are gentle enough to be done everyday, and will release tight muscles. Following these stretches with twenty minutes of heat, and then twenty minutes of ice will provide further relief.