Why The Chest Gets So Tight:
There are many things that can cause the chest to become tight. Probably the most common cause of tightness in the chest muscles is poor posture. In today’s world, we are always hunched over our devices for extended periods of time. We are constantly inundated with notifications, calls and text messages and it causes are spine to come into a C-curve for extended periods of time. This can cause shortening of the chest muscles which leads to tightness.
The chest is comprised of the Pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor muscles. The Pec Major attaches from the upper arm to the front of the chest wall. It anchors to the sternum and front of the rib cage. This is a large muscle and also the muscle that is most likely tight in the chest. The Pec Minor is such smaller. It attaches at the shoulder blade and also anchors to the front of the rib cage. It can also become tight. As we come into the C-curve of the spine, the upper back can become stiff as it responds to the chronic gravitational pull from our posture. The chest muscles then jump in to help support the overworked rib cage from the front line of the body.
Why It’s Important to Stretch the Chest:
Opening the chest helps to keep the pectoral muscles loose. They help to correct some of the damage that poor posture can cause. Chest openers can contribute to spinal health and longevity and can improve range of motion.
Here are the benefits to chest opening stretches:
-Increases range of motion
-Reduces soreness in tight muscles
-Reduces risk of injury
-Ultimately works to improve strength because by increasing range of motion through stretching, strengthening exercises for the chest become more effective
Best Chest Stretches:
1. Shoulder Flossing
Come to a comfortable seated position. You will need a yoga strap, or you can substitute with the tie to a bathrobe or a soft belt. Bring the strap into both hands and rest it lightly on the thighs. On an inhale, with straight arms, begin to circle the strap up and over head, reaching behind you. You don’t want the strap to be so tight that you’re compromising your posture but it also shouldn’t feel loose. Make any adjustments you need to with the strap. Continue to floss the shoulders with the strap, inhaling to bring the strap up and over your head and exhaling to return to your starting point. If you find any place that has resistance, you can hang out in that space and let the tension dissolve.
2. Seated Chest Opener
From a comfortable seated position, take a big inhale and reach both arms behind you, interlacing the fingers. Press the hands away from the body as you roll the chest and shoulders open.
3. Cow Face Arms
Come to a kneeling position so that you can really find some length in the spine. Feel free to bring a blanket under the knees. If this is uncomfortable, you can even do this seated in a chair. You’ll need a yoga strap and can substitute that with the belt of a bath robe or a soft belt of any kind. Bring the strap into the right hand and reach the right arm up overhead. Then bend the right elbow so that the right elbow is pointing up. Let the strap dangle down the back. Reach the left arm out to the left side and then bend the left elbow as the left hand finds the strap. Walk the hands as close together as you possibly can and hold here for a few breaths. This posture opens the chest and the front of the shoulders. Be sure to alternate and repeat with the left arm up and the right arm on the bottom.
4. Bow Pose
Begin laying flat on the belly. Bend the legs and reach back with both arms. Grab onto the feet, the ankles, whatever you can comfortably hold. If this does not feel good in your body, you can use a yoga strap around the ankles and hold onto the strap. You can also hold onto the thighs if that works better for you. Roll the chest and shoulders open as you begin to lift the legs from the ground. Press the feet/ankles into the hands (or strap) to help you lift. Hold for a few breaths before releasing.
Modification - One leg at a time.
5. Half Camel Pose
Come to stand on the knees with the legs about hip width distance. Stack the knees over the ankles and stack the hips over the knees. Squeeze the thighs in towards one another. On an inhale, start to activate your core and lengthen the tailbone slightly. Tuck the toes under. On the next inhale, roll the shoulders and chest open but keep the chin slightly tucked so that the back of the neck stays long. Keeping what you have, drop the left hand back towards the left heel. Lift the right arm up to the sky and hold for a few breaths. Be sure to repeat this on the other side.
Modification - You can always bring the hand to the low back rather than the heel if this feels good for you.
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