Our bodies crave movement and all of our habitual patterns — sitting, driving, typing at a computer, texting — have an effect on our bodies. We were not designed to sit in chairs for hours on end. It’s important to break free of and counterbalance these ongoing tendencies.

Suffering from tightness in the upper back, neck, shoulders, and chest is increasingly common. The following stretches offer your body a chance to move, and they offer your mind a chance to recharge, too. The two stretches incorporate resistance flexibility and traditional Chinese medicine and are intended to help release the unnecessary stress and tension in the body.

Just as an acupuncturist would use needles on these meridians to clear blockages of energy, these stretches are on the large intestine and lung meridian lines and will help increase the mobility and decrease the tightness in this region of the body.

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Standing tall, reach your arms straight out in front of you, shoulder height. Cross your right elbow over your left and then bend your arms at your elbows so that your forearms are in front of your face. Press the palms of your hands into one another and then press your forearms into one another as well.

Keep resisting your right arm into your left and your left arm into your right as you invite in the movement: move your elbows up and down, reach your forearms away from your body and then back in toward it, or try making circles with your elbows. Explore the movement, essentially massaging the shoulders and neck. Release your arms and start over, but with the left arm on top. Take a moment between the two sides to observe if you feel any effects of the active stretch.

This dynamic eagle-arms stretch will release tension through the neck and shoulders. The psychological impact can be profound as well. As you release the bind of the arms, pay attention and notice whether you feel an increased sense of serenity and ambition.

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Start standing about an arm’s length away from te wall. Place your left hand on the wall at about shoulder height. Keep your hand on the wall, but rotate your body so that you’re now facing the right. Then, press your left hand into the wall as you walk forward and toward the wall. Return to the starting position and repeat at least five times. Maintain an active level of resistance by dynamically pressing into the wall as you feel the stretch across the front of your chest, arm, forearm, and hand. Repeat on the right side.

Take a moment in between sides to feel for any effects of the movement. This stretch releases physical tension through the front body/chest, but it also improves the health of your lungs, enhances the overall oxygenation of the body, and increases endurance.

Resistance flexibility teaches us that these two stretches balance one another because the large intestine and lung meridian lines balance each other in Chinese medicine. As a result, these two stretches directly affect one another. Similarly, these muscle groups are considered agonist and antagonist of one another. So stretching both the front and back body in this way will lead to increased abilities for these muscle groups to both lengthen and shorten.

The benefit of these simple, active stretches is more than just physical. We have bodies, and our bodies are the tremendously complex, informative, and ever-changing containers in which we live. We are physical beings, but we are also emotional beings, psychological beings, and spiritual beings. All of these different worlds simultaneously exist within us, and all four worlds combine and interact to create our entire SELF. Through the exploration of movement and through these types of dynamic, resistant stretches, we are discovering what it means to connect, what it means to awaken all the different pieces of the whole.

So, the next time you find yourself sitting hunched over in front of a screen for a long period of time … take a quick stretch break.

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