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Your upper back, neck and shoulder regions of the body can become stiff and sore when breastfeeding and carrying around a newborn or a toddler. In Iyengar Yoga, we have many ways to relieve this tension and restore full range movement from this, and other parts of the body. Below are a few simple shoulder rejuvenators that you can do with a yoga strap, tie, towel or exercise band. They do not require a lot of time and can be done anywhere.
Shoulder lubrication: Motion is lotion! Try doing large arm circles like you are swimming the backstroke and the crawl stroke to increase circulation and get your arms, ribs moving, and your shoulder blades sliding and gliding on your upper back. Focus on making the largest circles that you can. Breath fully and freely. Do this until you feel the warmth around your chest and shoulders. Now hold the yoga strap in front of your body with your arms straight. While holding the strap, take both arms above your head and back behind you in one smooth circular movement. You might need to widen your hands–sometimes we don’t realize just how tight or how restricted our shoulders have become. Repeat this about 5 times while synchronizing your breath and your movements. After a few repetitions, try pausing when your arms are at shoulder height behind your back. Then try and stretch the belt. You will feel a big stretch across your chest. Make sure you can take a full breath as you do this–that way your nervous system will realize it is not under threat. Again–you might need to widen your hands. Smiling softly while doing this shoulder extension work can really help if you tend to hold your breath!
Supported upper back and chest opening Savasana (corpse pose): If you are in a place where you can lie down, try resting your upper back over a tightly rolled towel or blanket. Support your head with a yoga block or a book. Take your arms over your head and down toward the ground. Stay for several breaths, then take your arms to the sides of your body, with the palms facing upwards and rest for as long as you like. When you are ready to come up, roll to your side, turn your face toward the floor and come up to sit.
Jathara Parivartansasna or stomach-turning pose: Another great pose is a supine supported twist. Lie down with both knees bent at a right angle. Take your knees to the right side of your body and rest them on the floor. You might need a pillow or block between your knees if you feel any discomfort in your lower back. Turn your chest toward the ceiling and spread both arms out to the side. Stay here for several breaths, then repeat to the other side. Then lie flat on the floor in Savasana (corpse pose) for a few minutes.
Try doing these poses daily if you can. Your upper back, neck, and shoulders will thank you.