I was student teaching part of a yoga class today (I know! I’m super excited about that too!) and was leading my fellow yogis through some sun salutations.
There were some beginners in the class, and I’m also just learning to be a teacher and how to explain poses, so I broke down the flow of poses into segments and spent some time in each part. One of the first things we do in the sequence is a position called “upward salute”. This is essentially standing up straight with both feet on the floor and lifting your arms overhead.
I cued the pose and looked around the room – almost everyone was lifting with scrunched shoulders and a small movement just involving their arms. I catch myself doing this all the time as well but I didn’t realize until I was facing the class how common that was. I offered the cue to lower their shoulders and stretch up using their whole body. As they opened up their spine into a full body stretch, I saw people’s faces relax. Everyone seemed to grow taller. The energy in the room seemed to shift. It was amazing.
It made me curious. How did such a simple pose make such a huge difference?
There are lots of great benefits to this seemingly simple pose. Even if you’ve never stepped foot on a yoga mat, you can get some great benefits from an upward salute with no training and no special equipment. Do this anywhere. Get up from your chair, center your weight over your feet, stand up straight with your head aligned over your spine, and stretch your hands above your head without scrunching your shoulders. For me this motion feels like when I was a kid and I’d hang from the monkey bars at the park, an all-over body stretch. Stand still in the position for at least 30 seconds, and just breathe. Some of the benefits of this action include:
- Creating space in your spine, easing compression and counteracting some types of back pain
- Increasing energy
- Loosening tight shoulders
- Opening your chest
- Improving your posture
- Counteracting the forward lean of the neck that we get from staring down at devices all day
- Stregthening muscles throughout your body
- Improving balance
- Improve circulation
- Helping food to move through the intestines
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Making you feel strong and empowered
Sometimes you can do one simple thing that makes a big difference, and this is one of those things. Even if you take only one minute for yourself today, you’ll see a benefit. So put down your computer, get out of your chair, and stretch!
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