‘I’m a Mobility Coach, and Here’s How To Stretch Your Shoulders and Improve Your Posture While Sitting’

Photo: Getty Images / Andrey Popov
If the pandemic has had you working from home for the past 20 months, neck, shoulder, and back pain have probably become regular features of your life. That's because lots of sedentary time, coupled with a not-ergonomic workspace, can contribute to posture issues and pain. Mobility and posture exercises can help combat these effects by strengthening the muscles that help keep you upright. But many of these exercises—especially ones for opening up your shoulders—involve standing or lying on the ground, which aren't particularly accessible for people with disabilities or health conditions that make those movements difficult.

Alexandra Ellis, a yoga instructor and mobility coach, recently took to TikTok to share a way for people who have mobility issues to stretch their shoulders and improve their posture without having to stand or lean against a wall. "If there's one thing I know to be true, it's to fit the pose to your body, and not the other way around," she says. While the shoulder-opening exercise she shares can be done by many people, Ellis says it is a particularly good option for people who use mobility aids or who prefer to sit.

Here's how to do this seated shoulder-opening exercise to help ease tension and support better posture:

1. Start by sitting in your best posture in a chair, Ellis says. "For me that means my feet on the floor and I'm sitting up nice and tall." Place an object like a foam roller behind you between your back and the back of the chair. This will help you feel what's happening as you perform the movement.

2. Grab a strap or a towel in both of your hands, then bring it behind your head. Make sure that your elbows are forward and your hands are back.

3. Draw an imaginary circle behind your head without your elbows rotating back or your ribcage popping forward. Perform as many as you can in either direction while still maintaining good posture.

If you don't have a foam roller or you are unable to sit up straight, Ellis says you can also do this just using a strap or towel behind your head. "Pain-free movement is key. If anything you do creates extra tension or discomfort above and beyond what you're already feeling, then that's probably not a good fit for you," Ellis says. "Feeling better in your body, feeling less pain on a regular basis, is entirely possible, and sometimes it's as simple as a foam roller and a strap."

Looking for more posture-promoting exercises? Try this 15-minute upper-body Pilates workout: 

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