Use Your Head About Shoulders
Practicing a few simple stretches can result in new freedom of movement in many standing poses, backbends, and inversions.
With your palms facing each other, bring your arms up in front of you and stretch the arms forward
enough to feel the shoulder blades broaden but not so much that your breastbone drops. Continue to
keep the palms facing as you smoothly stretch the arms up overhead. To build strength, hold
this position for at least 30 seconds.
Also try to keep the same amount of low back curve with which you started: Don't compensate for lack
of full range of motion in your shoulders by overarching and possibly compressing your lower back.
Once you've begun to open and strengthen your shoulders, poses like Down Dog, Elbow Balance,
Headstand, and Handstand can help you build even more strength.
If you can stand near the wall, maintain your regular low back curve, and bring your arms overhead all
the way to the wall (don't let those elbows bow out to the sides), congratulations! You've joined an
exclusive group, the 180-Degree Club. Your membership in the club should result in new freedom of
movement in all of the arms-overhead standing poses, less grumpiness in your low back in backbends,
and less effort in inversions.
Julie Gudmestad is a licensed physical therapist and certified Iyengar Yoga teacher. She runs a
private physical therapy practice and yoga studio in Portland, Oregon, where she combines her Western
medical knowledge with the healing powers of yoga.