Easing shoulders and arms

These stretches should be comfortable at all times. The swinging of the arms is great for easing movement restrictions - as long as you stay comfortable.

Stand tall, lift up your chest, unlock your knees. Let your arms hang loose by your side. Move your shoulders in deliberate slow circles, start with bringing your shoulder blades down. Make the shoulder circles as big as possible. You may hear clicking noises - I do after a session at the computer. Keep your arms relaxed.

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Make sure you have enough space around you. Keep your arms and hands relaxed and heavy. Swing your arms backwards and forwards, small movements first, then you can make them bigger. You can bend your knees with each move and get a bit of a rhythm going, even combing this with a squat.

Now stand with your legs shoulder width apart, knees still unlocked and with plenty of space around you. First keep your hips still and swing your arms around you by moving your upper back. First one way, then the other, and so on. Small movements first, then increase the speed of the swinging. You will notice that your circles become bigger. You can tap your body where your hands land, giving yourself an invigorating massage. At a next stage you can move your hips, too, and pivot on one foot. Go with the flow, stay relaxed, feel how your arms move.

Now make a big circle with one arm, stretching your fingers to make it as large as possible. Go both ways on both sides. The advanced version of this exercise is to do both arms at the same time but in opposite directions. Have fun. I find it helps if you start with both arms stretched out at the top. Go both directions with each arm.

Find a door frame and stand in front of it facing the room. Bring your arms up so that they are level with your shoulders. Bend your elbows ninety degrees with your palms facing forward. Place your elbows, lower arms and hands on the door frame. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. Now shift your weight until you feel a stretch across your chest, obviously while staying steady on your feet. Hold. You can vary this stretch by moving your upper arms higher or lower.

Tall people can even use the top of the door frame for a stretch, but I can't reach.

Sit or stand upright, lift your chest, tuck your chin in slightly, or alternatively, imagine being gently pulled up by a golden thread from the crown of your head. Now place the palm of one hand on the skin of the top of your breast bone and stretch it down towards your belly. Place the other hand on top. While you stretch down push your chin in until you feel a stretch between you collar bone and neck. If you want to have a bit of fun grimace with your mouth, push the corners of the mouth down a lot, feel this in your chest muscles.

Lie on your back on a firm surface, for example a yoga matt or a carpet. Bend your legs, put your lower back in "neutral", find a pillow for your head if required. Relax for a few moments, take a deep breath. Now slowly lift your straight arms over your head. Keep your lower back where it is. Feel the stretch at the front of the chest and belly. Rest your arms over your head and take a few breaths. Bring your arms back. Roll up a towel and place under your ribcage at the back. Again lift your arms over your head and you will feel a stronger stretch. Experiment with the thickness of the towel roll. Enjoy the opening of your chest and upper belly.


Trigger points are these exquisitely tender and knotted spots in our muscles, sometimes the pain radiates out. When you find a trigger point in a muscle hold it for about 12 seconds with a pain level no more that 6 on a scale from 1 to 10. Trigger point work can be tiring for your hands, so tennis or spiky balls come in useful. An easy way of doing this is lying on two spiky (or tennis balls) against the ridge of your skull and relax. You can loosen your pecs using a tennis ball. Place it underneath your collar bone and roll it about. You can also try to put your weight on the ball.

Most of us get tight arms and hands, sometimes without us noticing it. When massaging your hands and arms you have to watch that you don't damage the massaging hand or thumb. Here are a couple of ideas. 

Sit tall and let one arm hang on the side so that the back of your hand faces forwards. With the other hand grab the muscle at the back of the upper arm (the triceps). Slowly rotate the arm so that the palm of the hand faces forward while keeping hold of the muscle. You can also let your fingers slide over the muscle, this works better on bare skin. Do this in a relaxed fashion, keep your hand loose.

You can use your lower arm to massage the other lower arm. For this you need to sit so that your feet are flat on the floor. Place one arm across your thighs, the other arm across it. Now lean on your top arm, move - either with the top arm while keeping hold of the tissues of the bottom arm, or the bottom arm - wrist rotations, big movements of hand, etc. You can do this with the bottom arm palm up or down, depending on which side of the lower arm you would like to loosen. Now place the back of your hand on one thigh and place your forearm across it. Lean on your forearm.

Press into the webbing between your thumb and your forefinger until you find an exquisitely tender point. Hold and breathe. In my experience there is no way of doing this gently or saving your fingers. This acupressure point "brings the energy down", so is good for anxiety and headaches. Avoid in pregnancy unless you want to help the birth along.

Strengthening exercises

These exercises are great if you have a tendency to put your head forwards. Most of us have, particulary if you have to look at screens for a long time.

The double chin exercise. This is exactly what my name says: stand tall and do your "best" double/triple/quadruple chin. Hold for 12 seconds, repeat often.   

Alternatively, stand with your back against a wall. Roll out the shoulders so that your chest is open and the palms of your hands face to the front. Bring the back of your head against the wall while keeping your chin tucked in - so far the same as the previous exercise. Then take a small step away from the wall, pivoting on your head. Keep your neck and shoulders in the same position. Don't lean on the head, use the wall for a nice neck stretch, push your shoulders away from your ears. Hold for a long time, if you can manage for a few minutes.

You can strengthen you upper back and shoulder blade muscles with the W exercise. Make a W shape with your arms, palms facing forwards. Keep your chin tucked in, remember, ears aligned with shoulders. Pull your shoulder blades down and in. This is a small movement, if you move from the right place. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat often.

For the rounded back lying on the rolled up towel is good. This is a nice way of tuning in before continuing with the rest of your day.

Complete with a few more shoulder rotations. Or for a more vigorous option, lift your shoulders to your ears and drop them suddenly.    

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