Tapping into our body’s natural range of motion to lengthen and strengthen key muscles and tissue in our shoulders, neck, hips and back.
So many of us our spending hours of our days sitting… sitting while we work, sitting while we drive, sitting while we eat… the list goes on. It’s widely acknowledged that this lifestyle can have adverse effects on our posture: tightening up the shoulders, neck, back and hips.
Yoga provides us with so many helpful poses that stretch and release tension after sitting all day long. But we don’t need to be tying ourselves up into a pretzel and stretching as deeply as we can to release this niggling tension in the neck, back and hips. Familiarizing ourselves with our body’s natural range of motion and working within these realms to both lengthen and strengthen the surrounding muscles and tissues is often most helpful in the long run. However, this requires us to let go of what a traditional yoga pose looks like and be open to finding a variation that suits our own body type.
What is Mobility?
Mobility is the capacity for the body to move and be moved, often referred to as our range of motion or the range through which a joint can be moved. The movement of the joint can be active, passive or a combination of both
The yoga practice is full of poses for improving mobility of joints, particularly using passive mobility exercises. An example is folding forward into a passive seated forward fold.
This isn’t a problem and can certainly help release and relieve the niggling tension that we feel after sitting for 6 hours each day. But how might the poses change if we focused on our active range of motion as well?
Here are 3 familiar yoga poses that are helpful antidotes for sitting at your desk all day. Each one looks a bit different from the traditional variation of the pose as the have been adapted to focus on active mobility rather than our passive mobility.
Active Mobility Dancers Pose
Good For: active stretch the chest and shoulders, strengthens the core and back, challenges our balance and focus. Standing Leg: strengthens the front of your hips (hip flexors), your thighs (while also stretching the back of your thighs/hamstrings), shins, and ankles. Lifted Leg: Strengthens your gluteal and back of thigh (hamstrings). Stretches the front of your hip (hip flexors), front on your thigh (quadriceps), and ankle.
- Begin in Mountain pose, facing the front of the mat.
- Root down through the big toes while lifting the inner arches.
- Pour your weight into your left foot and your raise your right foot, keeping the toes on the ground initially.
- Hug your left hip into the hip socket.
- Lengthen the skin of your tailbone to the ground.
- Imagine that you have a corset around your waist that is slightly tightened to wake up your core muscles.
- Glide your shoulder blades towards one another and puff up through the chest.
- Bend the right knee and lift up behind you; keeping your frontal hip bones facing forwards.
- Reach back towards your raised foot with both hands but without touching.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths then release back to Tadasana and take the other side.
Active Mobility Cow Face Arms
Good For: Active Stretch for the the shoulders, armpits and triceps, and chest
- Find your comfortable seat or stand if you prefer.
- Bring your arms out to the side in a ‘T’ position.
- Turn your right thumb up towards the ceiling
- Raise your right arm up towards the ceiling, bend your elbow
- Turn the left thumb down to the ground
- Reach your left arm down, bend the elbow.
- Reach your finger tops towards one another but without touching or pull your hands towards one another with a strap.
- Stay for a few deep breaths.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
Active Mobility Bow Pose
Good For: Active stretch for the entire front of the body, ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest, and throat, and deep hip flexors (psoas). Strengthens the back muscles, improves posture after sitting all day.
- Lie on your belly with your hands alongside your torso, palms up. (You can lie on a folded blanket to pad the front of your torso and legs.)
- Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. Reach back with your hands without taking hold of your ankles.
- Ensure your knees aren’t wider than the width of your hips, and keep your knees hip width for the duration of the pose.
- Firm up through your thighs.
- Draw your pubic bone to the ground.
- Bend your elbow and glide your shoulder blades towards one another then re-straighten your arms.
- Inhale as you lift your chest up, reaching back towards your ankles but without touching them.
- Maybe lift the thighs as well.
- Take 3-5 deep breaths before releasing and lying down on the ground again.
Our body loves to move in different ways and there is no doubt that sitting for six hours (+) each day has its issues. Getting up and moving about is most important and there are a great number of passive mobility yoga poses that can be incredibly helpful for many things. But giving yourself permission to let go of what you think a pose is ‘meant’ to look like can be a helpful stepping-stone towards learning more about your own body and finding a healthy balance of both strength and flexibility that suits your own needs.