The Armpit Sniffer Stretch (Neck & Shoulders)

09.05.2016 |

Episode #4 of the course Quick yoga poses at the desk by Elaine Oyang


Nowadays, with the majority of our time spent looking at a screen, our neck inevitably cranes forward and our shoulders creep up toward our ears. Over time, this causes a lot of strain in the back of the neck and shoulders, since they have to support the weight of the head (approximately 7-10 lbs.).

4.1 Quick yoga poses at the desk

4.2 Quick yoga poses at the desk

What you need:

– A comfortable standing or sitting position

What to do:

1) Sit or stand upright with the head aligned over your shoulders. (Note: Your ears should be directly above your shoulders).

2) Clasp your fingers together at the base of your skull with the palms of both hands cupped behind your ears.

3) Press the back of your head into your palms and pull your hands upwards to lengthen the back of the neck.

4) Keep the shoulders and collarbones broad as you tilt the chin down toward the chest, as if you’re making a double chin. Keep the hands clasped behind your head and press gently down to aid the stretch in the back of your neck. You may even feel the stretch in your upper back. Stay for 8 breaths, then lift the head back up and release the hands down to your side.

5) Turn your head so your chin aligns over your right shoulder. Lower your chin so that your nose is pointing down toward the right armpit. Wrap your right arm over the top of the head and gently press down (you will look like you’re sniffing your armpits). You should feel the stretch along the left side of the neck to your left shoulder.

6) Stay for 5 breaths, lift the head back to center, then repeat on the other side.

Why this works:

These stretches specifically target the bigger muscle groups of the neck and upper back that help hold our heavy head. They are often overworked and under-stretched. By using our hands to assist the stretches, we are able to target the deeper layer of the neck and upper back muscles.


Recommended book:

“Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness” by Erich Schiffmann


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