Heart Opener: an antidote to long hours at the computer

This is a simple exercise that can be performed seated or standing. I'll describe the seated variation first, since you are probably sitting at your computer right now. It is a great antidote to the aches and pains in your upper back and neck accrued while spending long hours at your computer.

Come to sit a little forward in your chair. You'll want to have your pelvis clearly on the seat of your chair but not be leaning into the chair back. Close your eyes and sit up tall. In your mind's eye see the side of your body: hip points, shoulder socket and ears in one long vertical line. Gently engage your pelvic floor muscles (drawing pubic bone to tail bone and sitting bones toward one another) and lift from your pelvic floor through the crown of your head. Your abdominal muscles will gently draw up and under your rib cage.

Lift your arms and take your fingertips to rest on the back of your head behind your ears. Keeping your fingertips on your head, stretch your elbows in opposite directions, like you were trying to touch the walls on either side of the room. Now slide your head straight back into your finger tips, just like sliding a drawer backward onto its shelf. Depending on the mobility of your neck, your head might move anywhere from half an inch to 2 inches. Keep lifting your pelvic floor and your belly up and under your ribs and hold the stretch for 4 to 8 breaths, then release and relax. Repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times. To release your back during long days of computer work, repeat this exercise once every hour or two.

You can use this upper body position as a variation in warrior poses, triangle poses and parsvokonasana (forward facing triangle). In addition to opening up the chest and shoulders it will build abdominal strength and balance as a variation in standing poses.