Loosen the Lats and Traps

Ever reach for something above your head and out in front of you just a bit to feel a stabbing pain right at the base of the back of your neck? Do you feel similar tightness and strain when you’ve been working at the computer for long periods of time? Chances are, your latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles are not happy with you. It’s difficult to intuitively know how to stretch them, but there are a couple easy yoga poses you can do at home or at work to help keep them loose and happy.

One of the easiest and most relaxing poses is Child’s Pose, pictured above. You really can’t do it wrong and you can do it just about anywhere. This pose will give achey shoulders some rest, as well as helping you feel a little more energized.

For the lats specifically, kneel in front of a chair, preferably one without wheels, and hold something lightweight and at least 10 inches long in your hands; a yoga block is best, but use whatever you have. Bend at the hips and rest your elbows on the edge of the chair with your forearms and block straight up in the air. Don’t allow your back to arch: the lats connect all around your spine and to other back muscles, so don’t ruin the stretch by compromising their connection with an arched back. Lower your head as much as is comfortable and scoot your knees and hips back away from the chair until you feel that gentle stretch in backs of your shoulders and neck. It should be a gentle pose, allowing for plenty of easy breathing, so don’t overdo the distance of your hips from the chair or the distance you allow your head to drop. Just keep breathing slowly and gently and allow the muscles to do their thing. Come out of the stretch slowly – too quickly and the muscles could seize up.

If you have a bolster, one of the most relaxing trap stretches is simply to lie on your back with the bolster under your spine. Use a pillow for your head and feel free to bend your knees to lessen the arch in your back. The bolster will allow your shoulders to droop backwards, relaxing the traps and all the tension that is created by poor posture at the computer. Careful: this one is so relaxing you may just not want to get up!

Doing these stretches on a daily basis will train your back muscles to stay loose and relaxed, even when you’re forced into postures that aren’t the best for your body.