8 Best Stretches to Increase Upper Body Mobility

by Carissa Wong
FITNESS  |  March 13, 2019
  • Got a tight chest or shoulders? Do these upper body stretches to loosen up those muscles.
    1 / 9 Got a tight chest or shoulders? Do these upper body stretches to loosen up those muscles.

    You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. In fact, the stiffer you are, the more you stand to gain from doing yoga, or some form of stretching. Besides improving mobility and range of movement, stretching your upper body can do wonders in advancing your yoga practice. Here are eight great stretches to release the tension.

    (Also read: Easy Yoga Poses For Stiff & Sedentary People)

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  • Downward dog
    2 / 9 Downward dog

    This is a basic but essential pose in every yoga practice to ground the mind and body. Though this looks easy, holding it for extended periods of time can really strengthen and loosen up your shoulders.

    Straighten your arms as you tilt your pelvis forward to lift your sitting bones up. Keep a neutral spine and try to press your heels to the ground. If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees slightly. Look between your palms, at your toes, or at your belly. Hold for 10 breaths.

    Scale up: Press your hands down firmly and bring your head closer to the ground. This will help to open the upper back.

    (Also read: 3 Easy Moves to Get Rid of a Stiff Neck)

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  • Wild thing
    3 / 9 Wild thing

    Also called a flipped dog, this pose helps to stretch the chest and front of the shoulders. It is a fun heart-opening pose that allows you to work your lower body at the same time.

    From downward dog, lift your right leg up as high as you can. Slowly, bring your right toes to the left side of your body and lift your right hand up and over your head. Keep lifting your hips without touching your right heel to the ground. Straighten your left hand and look towards your right fingers. Hold for 10 breaths and repeat on other side.

    Scale up: If you’re more flexible, try to straighten your left knee and touch your right fingertips to the ground.

    (Also read: 7 Easy Stretches You Must Do Every Morning)

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  • Puppy pose
    4 / 9 Puppy pose

    If you feel a lot of tightness in your middle back, turn to the puppy pose for relief. It is a restful pose that undoes stiffness from hours of working.

    Kneel on the floor with knees hip-width apart. Keeping your hips above your knees, reach your hands forward and walk them forward until your chin and chest comes into contact with the floor. Rest for 10 breaths.

    Scale up: You might not feel enough stretch in your shoulders if you are flexible, so place your arms on yoga blocks to deepen the stretch. Play around with tucking and untucking your toes to see what gives a better stretch.

    (Also read: 7 Health Benefits Of Stretching That Will Make You Want to Stretch Every Day)

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  • Thread the needle
    5 / 9 Thread the needle

    Some people have tight shoulder rotator cuff muscles while others have tight shoulder blades. This pose will stretch them all out.

    Staying in a puppy pose, lift your right hand up and thread it under your body towards the left, palm facing up. Turn your head to the left and rest your cheek on the floor. Stay for 10 breaths and repeat on the other side.

    Scale up: Stretch your other shoulder at the same time, by reaching your top hand towards the opposite direction of the bottom hand.

    (Also read: Best Floor Stretches For Runners with Tight Muscles)

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  • Shoulder rotations
    6 / 9 Shoulder rotations

    Doing yoga poses that have your shoulders rotating backwards requires ample shoulder mobility. To prevent shoulder aches, keep stretching your shoulder rotator cuff muscles.

    In a comfortable seated or standing position, hold a yoga towel or strap at shoulder level. Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width. In a slow and controlled manner, keep your hands straight as you move the towel over your head and behind your back. Go back and forth 10 times.

    Scale up: As you get used to this, you can slowly hold the towel or strap at a narrower width. You should feel tension but not pain in the shoulders.

    (Also read: 7 Standing Yoga Poses That Will Improve Your Balance)

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  • Hands above head
    7 / 9 Hands above head

    Release tight shoulders and shoulder blades with this simple stretch that can be done anywhere.

    Raise your hands above your head and interlock your hands, palms facing up. Straighten your arms and keep reaching upwards. Slowly move your hands backwards as you stretch both sides of your body. Hold for 10 breaths.

    Scale up: If your trapezius muscles are tight, squeeze and release your shoulder blades for an added stretch.

    (Also read: Simple Desk Exercises You Can Do in the Office)

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  • Hands behind back
    8 / 9 Hands behind back

    Another pose that can be done in the office or at home, this will open up your chest and stretch your shoulders.

    In a comfortable standing or seated position, bring your hands behind you and interlock them. Straighten your arms and pull your hands backwards. Keep your back straight as you lift your chest up. Hunch your lower back slightly if you are prone to overarching. Hold for 10 breaths.

    Scale up: For those with tight shoulders, lean forward and reach your forehead towards the knees for a deeper stretch. Keep reaching your hands towards the ceiling.

    (Also read: Here’s How You Can Sneak a Workout in the Office)

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  • Bind behind back
    9 / 9 Bind behind back

    Give your biceps and triceps a good stretch, along with your shoulders.

    In a comfortable seated position, bring your right arm above your head. Bend your elbow and reach to the back. Bend your left arm behind your back and try to grab your right hand. Keep your body upright and chest open. Do not hunch over in order to connect your hands. If you are unable to connect your hands, use a towel or strap. Hold for 10 breaths and repeat on other side.

    Scale up: For a deeper stretch, maintain a firm hand grip and bend forward while keeping your body straight. Reach your forehead to your knee to further stretch the top of your shoulders.

    (Also read: 10 Brainless Ways to Tone Your Butt in The Office)

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