From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Living in Balance, Enlightening Exercise: Yoga for Self-Care,” by Chris Towery, in the June 2009 issue. Article summary: When you mention yoga today, people often think of its physical postures, or asanas—but just as massage is far more than a sequence of hand strokes, yoga goes beyond simply contorting one’s body.
As a massage therapist, you know even with good body mechanics, your low back and trapezius muscles are often left in pain by near-daily massaging, standing for long periods and using your shoulders and upper-body muscles so frequently.
You should take short breaks between sessions in order to release tension in your shoulders and trapezius muscles, and to stretch out any kinks in your lower back.
Here’s a five-minute yoga routine you can incorporate into your workday. While performing this standing-room-only yoga series, breathe deeply in and out through your nose and close your eyes. Try to hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds as you calm your mind and slow your thoughts.
1. Standing Forward Fold
• Start with knees slightly bent, feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Slowly hinge forward from the hips, leading with your chest.
• Bring hands to the floor and bend knees as much as you need to.
• Shake out your head and neck slowly to release tension.
• Close your eyes and direct your breath to the back of your body.
• After a minute or so, clasp opposite biceps in each hand and hold for another minute, allowing the head to feel heavy and relaxed.
• Allow yourself to very slowly roll up one vertebra at a time, with knees bent and arms at your sides.
2. Standing Chest Expansion
• Stand again with feet hip-width apart, and now interlace your fingers behind your lower back and straighten your arms as much as possible.
• Raise your arms overhead, bend the knees and come back into the forward fold, allowing your head to grow heavy.
• Breathe into your shoulders and lift your tailbone to the sky.
• Tighten your abdominals to support the lower back and lift your shoulders away from your ears for several deep breaths.
• Drop your hands to the floor and again roll up slowly with knees bent.
Beth Shaw is a fitness expert and founder of YogaFit, the largest yoga teacher training school in the world. Shaw is also a certified massage therapist and author of YogaFit (Human Kinetics, 2009). For more information, visit http://yogafit.com.