6 Tension-Relieving Upper Body Stretches That Will Have Your Neck and Shoulders Saying, ‘Ahh!’

Whether your neck and shoulders are sore from an intense workout or from slumping over your laptop all day (or, if you're like me, some combination of the two), all you need to melt that tension is a nice little stretch session. So do yourself a favor and take 9 minutes (that's it!) out of your day for some tension-relieving upper body stretches—I promise, your muscles will thank you for it.

Follow along with the video above as fitness expert and trainer Ashley Joi takes you through a series of active recovery moves that will help you untangle any knots in your upper body. One pro tip for getting the most out of the process? Hold each stretch for at least thirty seconds. “It takes that long for your muscles to realize: Oh! We’re stretching!” says Joi.   Just like how we set aside time for ourselves to relax our minds (see: meditation), we have to do the same for our muscles. So give yourself permission to do some serious relaxing, and let’s get stretching.

6 tension-relieving upper-body stretches

1. Cat cow: Get ready to feel good all over with a classic upper-body tension-reliever. Set yourself up on all fours, and place a towel under your knees if you need some extra cushioning. On your inhale, bring your head down, and lift your upper back up towards the sky. With your exhale, tilt your chin up and bring your belly down to the ground. Take your time with this one—it should feel super yummy.

2. Child’s pose with shoulder stretch: Say "thank you" to your shoulders with this variation on a classic child’s pose. Sink your hips back into your heels, reach your arms out in front of you, and bring your chest to the ground. One side at a time, thread one arm under the other to give that shoulder blade an extra stretch. Make sure to stay on each side for a few luxurious breaths to really reap the benefits of the move.

3. Chest opener: Standing up nice and tall, bring your arms out wide like you’re about to give someone a big hug, and then—plot twist—hug yourself. Extend your arms back out and repeat, making sure to alternate which arm lands on top.

4. Standing tricep stretch: Time to stretch the back of those arms, aka your triceps. Still standing, reach your right arm up over your head and bend it backwards. Next, bring your left hand to meet your right elbow, gently pulling it backwards until you feel a stretch. Make sure to keep your ribcage down as you hold the pose for a few deep breaths, then switch sides.

5. Standing shoulder stretch: Next up, an oldie but a goodie. Take one arm across your body, cradling your elbow in your other hand, and gently pull. Remember to keep your shoulder down away from your ear and look over the shoulder you’re stretching for an extra release in your neck.

6. Neck rolls + neck stretch: Stretching the muscles in your neck is a great way to counteract the effects of staring down at your phone all day. Start by drawing slow circles with your nose for a 360 stretch, do a few clockwise and a few counterclockwise. For the grand finale, tilt your head over to the left, using your left hand to gently bring your ear to touch the top of your shoulder. Make sure to hit the right side, and you’re all done.

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