We’re all swamped. We’re all running from one thing to the next. Or worse, we’re swamped but seated behind a desk for hours at a time. Our bodies are crying out for some attention. Some relaxation! Some movement! Some good old fashioned stretching! Believe it or not, you don’t need to commit yourself to a full stretch workout or flexibility workout in order to reap some benefits. I’ve outlined some of my favorite upper body stretches for those moments when your neck and shoulders feel tight, stressed, or just plain tired.
The Sternocleidomastoid Stretch
Don’t be intimidated by the title of this stretch. Though the muscle’s name is a mouthful, this stretch is pretty straightforward. You should know that the sternocleidomastoid is the muscle located behind your ears, down the front of your neck, where it then attaches to your sternum and collarbone. The neck is definitely an area that clients complain about feeling tight and/or sore. Thankfully, this stretch can work wonders, relieving a tense neck and chest area and helping to improve postural muscles. All the movements listed here should be done gently and slowly. If you want to see a demonstration, be sure to check out my Instagram page.
Steps for the Sternocleidomastoid Stretch
- Stand with a long spine
- Place your hand on top of your head
- Slowly tilt your neck to one side and then slowly move your head forward and backwards
- Repeat on the other side
This next stretch is for all of you out there who sit at a desk for way too many hours each day. Being in that position for those long hours can leave us with tight, tense bodies, which can be an unpleasant way to end the day. These neck rotations can help loosen us up a little, relieving some of that tension on the neck and shoulders while also increasing neck flexibility. Again, remember to do this movement slowly. Here’s a demonstration in case you’d like to see it in action.
Steps for the Neck Rotation Stretch
- Rotate your neck gently
- Move the neck in small circles
- Make sure your eyes follow your rotation
- Repeat ten times
Here’s another great yet simple stretch to improve shoulder mobility, posture, and to relieve overhead tension. This stretch can serve as a complement to the first two stretches listed here, providing your neck and shoulders some well-deserved relief from the day! The demonstration is here.
Steps for the Shoulder Rotations Stretch
- Sit on a firm surface with legs crossed
- Bend your left arm
- Place your fingertips on your left shoulder
- Make slow circles all the way around (back to front), giving your shoulder a stretch
- Repeat on the other side
(*If you’d like a deeper stretch, do the same thing with your arm straightened)
The Floor Sleeper Stretch
This next stretch requires a bit more equipment—a yoga block—and some space (you’ll be lying down on the floor). This stretch helps provide muscle stability in your shoulders and can improve internal rotation. Check out the demonstration here.
Steps for the Floor Sleeper Stretch
- Lie on your side with your head on a block for support
- Make sure your shoulders are in line with the elbow on the floor
- Bring your elbow straight out from your shoulders
- Use your other hand to push your forearm toward to the floor
- Press as far down as you comfortably can
- Repeat this stretch five times each on both sides of the body
And there you have it! Four of my favorite neck and shoulder exercises that you can do on your own. Getting in the habit of stretching regularly can produce big gains for your body. It can also help you take some time out of the craziness of the day to reset your mind (as well as your body). And if you’d like to request specific stretch demonstrations, be sure to let us know on the Bodyologist Instagram page!