It’s time to unclench your body with these heart-opening chest stretches.
Picture the scene: no one is replying to your Slack messages, you’re watching the sun from your window rather than basking in it, and your upper body is killing you. For most of you, that image probably wasn’t that hard to conjure up; you live it every day.
While we can’t fix poor communication and we can’t get you the afternoon off work to enjoy the weather, we can give you some pointers to help with easing up the pain that comes from hunching over your at-home desk set-up.
Toni Stait, yoga teacher and sports massage therapist, is here to share her favourite chest stretches. “Not only will they unstick the sticky parts, but they’ll create a bit of space and freedom,” she says. “Your mind will welcome the break from your screen too.”
The best chest stretches: Seated ‘proud chest’
- Find a comfortable crossed-legged position. Have a little wiggle side to side and establish a good connection to the floor.
- Take your hands behind you, ‘tent’ your fingers by opening them wide and press the fingertips into the floor behind your bottom.
- Gather the shoulder blades down and together on the back of your heart, spread your collarbones wide and lift your chest.
- Take some deep and easy breaths into your belly. Stay here for 20 to 30 seconds.
The best chest stretches: Standing forward fold
- Stand up tall, your feet hip width apart. Ground through the soles of your feet, pick up all ten of your toes, spread them wide and play with placing them all back down one at a time.
- Interlace your hands behind your back and take a deep breath in. Reach the hands back and away from your torso whilst simultaneously lifting the chest.
- Keep your chest broad and on an out breath, hinge at your hips and fold forwards over the thighs, bending your knees as much as you need to so your spine can be long and free.
- Keep your hands interlaced and allow them to gently lower towards the floor over the top of your head. Allow your head to be heavy and your neck to be loose and long.
- Breathe into your shoulders and upper back and stay for as many breaths as feels good.
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Best chest stretches: Chair twist
- Take a seat in a dining chair or desk chair, one with a back and one that does not swivel.
- Turn yourself 90 degrees so your whole body, feet, knees, chest and head are all square to the right side of the chair.
- Root your feet to the floor (if your feet don’t reach the floor then stack books to place your feet onto).
- Use a deep breath in to lengthen from your sit bones to the crown of your head and with the exhale gently twist your torso towards the back of the chair, taking hold of the backrest with your hands to help support the twist.
- Continue to work with your breath, moving gently and mindfully from your centre. Stay for 20 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the left.
To finish: Shake it off
Get up off of that thing and dance until you feel better. Shake your fingers, hands, wrists and elbows. Wriggles your toes, roll through ankles, shake your legs, move your hips. Shake your face – go on, actually shake your face, wobbly cheeks and all. Shake your body up high, shake your body down low. Like you’ve just got out of the shower and realised you left your towel in the other room, shake it all off. Shake it until your cheeks are a little rosy, your heart is beating a little faster, your body feels alive and you feel better.
Now, doesn’t that feel like a good way to end that stressful day?
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).