Urdhva Hastasana: Standing with Arms over Head
This very simple pose - Mountain Pose or Tadasana is with standing up straight with all joints in the neutral position. I think most anyone who can make it to a Yoga class can do this pose Tadasana. If for some reason, someone can't do the pose, they probably won't join a Yoga class. However, when you stand here in Tadasana and bring your arms up to over your head to make Urdhva Hastasana, there are a few problems.
In the past, we humans had a variety of activities or tasks that require bringing the arms over the head such as climbing, picking fruits, hanging clothes, etc. However nowadays in modern time, we have less and less of such movements. Instead, we sit most of the time in front of something: a desk, a computer, a phone, steering wheel, etc. We are so limited in our everyday movement that there are people who can't raise their arms over their head due to tightness and tension accumulated around their side torso, arms, shoulders, neck and back.
The pose - Urdhva Hastasana, looks very simple and easy. But neck-shoulder problems are now surprisingly popular among us. Some people don't have neck-shoulder problem by sitting and slouching too much over the desk, they are just stiff. For example men with thick muscles or work hard with their shoulders, or sporty men who train hard but without stretching enough and lose their mobility in their shoulders.
When you can't raise your arms so high up to over your head, let's accept it for now and make it easier by either:
Make your arms wider apart into a V shape, probably bending at the elbows as above.
Only raise your arms to your limit, as high as you can still keep your spine neutral (¨straight back¨) and still have space at your neck.
Starting from here and raise your arms higher and straighter bit by bit every day, after a few weeks or months, you will get back your full range of movement and can raise your arms over your head.
Just as Lao Tzu said:
A thousand mile journey starts with one single step
Use Yoga Strap To Open Shoulders
It's very nice to use a Yoga strap to stretch the sides of the torso, shoulders and arms as shown above.
Moreover, you can use the strap to stretch your chest muscles - front shoulders by holding the strap and bring it over and behind you. It is a very simple stretch, but many people struggle with it because the stretch feeling is intense. I use this shoulder-opening pose with the Yoga strap to prepare the body for deep backbend - chest opening such as King Dancer, King Pigeon. I will tell you more about how to do these deep backbends for beginners in the Backbend Chapter.