This week I was planning to delve deeper into organising your life with lists and plans, but it occurred to me that another topic is more pertinent. So many of my friends are having a stressful time these days, and I want to share a simple exercise that I’ve found to be immensely helpful during tumultuous times.
Many moons ago I had a wonderful yoga instructor. Her classes were always serene and uplifting, and something that eased my struggles with life at the time. I learned a lot from her. One thing she always repeated were the words of B.K.S. Iyengar, a great yoga teacher. He said that if you keep your armpit chest open, you won’t get depressed. And while that’s probably a bit of a stretch, this exercise can make your life easier and lighter. I speak from experience.
The ‘armpit chest’ is the area of your upper ribcage, a few inches under the armpit. Lifting it lifts the sternum, lifts the collarbones, helps open up the lungs, draws your shoulder blades down and in. The way to do it is fairly straightforward, although it can take a bit of time to get the feel for it. You can do it sitting, or standing (known as Tadasana, or Mountain pose).
Stand straight, with your feet a couple of inches apart. Put your arms out in front of you, interlocking your fingers. Turn your wrists outwards.
Now inhale, raising your arms above your head. Stretch your arms up towards the ceiling, feeling your shoulders rise. Hold the stretch for a few seconds.
Keeping your arms up, lower your shoulders. Unlock your fingers and lower your arms in a big circle at your sides. This video shows you a variation of the exercise.
You should feel your shoulders further back and lower down compared to your previous posture. Hopefully your armpit chest area now feels lifted and open. I try to repeat this exercise multiple times a day, particularly when I’m feeling tired or stressed.
For a bit more information about how your posture can affect your mood, see this article.