Strong, flexible shoulders are so important to a healthy spine. Your shoulder girdle is connected to your thoracic spine; a weak thoracic spine can lead to lower back problems. A weak cervical spine can lead to bad posture and kyphosis (AKA the 'hunchback'). By practicing these small shoulder openers every single day, you can prevent further back problems as you get older. Here are 3 Shoulder Openers for Better Posture:
1) Shoulder Stretch in Virasana:
If sitting on your heels in virasana is uncomfortable, consider placing a block or yoga towel under your bum for support. Clasp your hands behind your back and extend your arms. Keep your lower belly engaged and as you inhale into your chest, exhale into your belly while you slowly pull the arms further away from your body. Stay here for 10 full breaths.
2) Purvottanasana + Variation:
We included two options in the pictures above: one with bent knees, which is easier on the low back, and one with straight legs. Either one is a great shoulder and back strengthener, do the version that feels best on your body. Press your shoulder blades into your back to support your chest, and avoid hardening your buttocks. Your toes might not get to the floor, but that's ok. Consider dropping your head completely (I kept my head elevated) if it works on your neck. Inhale in to the chest and exhale into the belly, stay here for 6 full breaths.
3) Gomukhasana Virasana Variation:
Inhale your right arm overhead and your left arm out to the side, then bend your right arm behind your neck and your left arm behind your back. Clasp your fingers together - if you cannot clasp yet, use a towel, shirt or yoga strap to hold onto. Continuing softening your lower belly and inhaling through the chest. Keep your right arm as close as you can to your ear. Stay here for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on other side.