Class #1049

Upper Body Release

30 min - Class
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Alan Herdman teaches an Office Chair workout designed to work on your upper torso. These exercises are great as a warm up or can be used regularly to add mobility to your upper back. With extremely clear instructions and cues to make sure you are in the correct position, Alan teaches Twists and Side Flexion for the thoracic spine, plus other inventive exercises. Your shoulders will feel so relaxed after this workout.
What You'll Need: Table Chair

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I'm Alan Herdman. And we're going to do a short class that's aimed at the upper torso. So many of my clients who spend their time driving, or sitting in front of computers, or sitting in front of television get very tight and rounded in the upper torso. So these few short exercises are great for a warm up or a homework routine. The main thing is to get the position correct before you start.

So can we sit with our feet flat on the floor, with our hip width apart, knees, feet, and hip joints in line? And with the arms resting by your sides. And think of your shoulders and hips in a line, so that we have a nice straight line between the shoulder joint and the hip joint. And the abdominals just very gently pulled in, but not forced. And very long spine.

Just feel the top of the head going out through the ceiling. And slightly heavy arms. Just let them relax down by your sides. Take a breath in through your nose. And then breathe out and relax.

Relax the shoulders as you breathe in. So just breathe in. And breathe out. As you breathe out, very gently draw the abs in, but not forcing them in. This time, as you breathe in, just lift your shoulders up into your ears.

Feel the scapula sliding up. Then as you breathe out, just gently slide the scapula down. And feel the head going in the opposite direction. But don't force the shoulders down. Just very easy.

So breathe in and lift. And breathe out and feel a very gentle angle towards the pelvis as you take the blades down. And breathe in as far as you can to your ears. And then, breathe out and draw down. Don't roll the shoulders back.

Just allow them to go straight down. So breathe in and lift. And breathe out and down. One more time. Breathe in.

And breathe out. This time, turn your hands so your palms are facing behind you. Elongate the spine again. And just feel your palms of your hands are gently pushing against something. So as you breathe in, you want to push your hands behind you.

And at the same time, lift the sternum slightly. But still draw the scapula down. And then, relax forward, breathing out. And breathe in and draw back. Just relax the back here just a little more.

And breath out. Come forward. This time as you go back, as your arms go past your hips, rotate your arms inward so the palms go outwards as you go back. And you'll feel the latissimus dorsi working a little more as you do that. I want you to drop the chin slightly.

And then, breathe out to come forward. And breathe in as you go back. Rotate your arms. Draw the scapula down a little more. And feel the head-- the top of the head going to the ceiling.

And forward breathing out. Two more times. And breathe out. So you pull back. Drop the chin just a little.

So I breathe in to go back. And then, breathe out to go forward. And breathe in as you go back. Rotate. Elongate.

And lift the sternum. And relax forward. And just shake your arms out. Did you feel that into your back there? This time, place your hands in front like this, in line with your shoulders.

But make sure your elbows are just in front of the shoulder joint. So there's a slight angle here. Very easy arms. Relax. Drop the shoulders down.

They don't have to be in line with the shoulders. If you feel the upper arm pulling together-- but allow your elbows to be easy and soft. So think of the armpit connecting but not the elbow. OK? So take a breath in as a preparation.

Now as you breathe out, just take the back of your hands out to the side. Now as you breathe in, rotate your lower arm. Draw the scapula down. And feel the front of your elbow going forwards. Breathe out and turn back.

And then, breathe in to come together. And breathe out, so you open. Breathe in and rotate. And feel the front of the elbow going forward, so we'll draw the scapula down a little more. Turn the hands, breathing out.

And then, breathe in to come forward. And breathe out. Breathe in. Now lift the sternum a little as you breathe in. Feel the front of the elbow going forward.

Turn the hands back, breathing out. And breathe in to come forward. And open. Rotate. Elongate.

Rotate back. And then, close. One more time. And open. And rotate.

Rotate back. And close. Good. And relax your arms. Shake your arms out.

Palms down this time. Same position, but your palms are down. Imagine your lower arms are resting on a table top. Just easy, easy. So you're going to slide your arms.

Now this time, as you breathe in, you're going to slide your arms away from you and feel the work into the rhomboids, between the shoulder blades. And you'll feel a gentle stretch in the front of the chest in the pecs. And then breathe out to come back. And breathe in as you open, pulling down. Lift the sternum a little more.

Feel the top of the head coming up. And breathe out to come forward. Keep your elbows in one place like that. Now breathe in and open. Again, think of the front of the elbow going forward.

Draw the scapula down and pull it in together. And open. That's it. And breathe out. One more time.

And breathe in and open. And breathe out. Good. [LAUGHING] Did you feel that in your back there? OK.

We'll take that one slightly further, but later on. So we'll go back to that. What I want to do now is to think of the rotation. You get a lot of people who will do rotations like this, holding their arms or holding a ball. What I want to do is to take your fingers together, so all three knuckles are touching.

And place your fingers onto the front of the sternum, so it touches. Onto the sternum. So you keep your knuckles touching. And your thumbs are going to be up. So from there, as you breathe in, you're going to turn to your right, keeping your joints touching as you turn.

And breathe out as you come back. And breathe in and turn to the left, keeping the knuckles touching. Draw this scapula down. And breathe out to return. And breathe in.

Come over here a little more. And breathe out. And breathe in. And breathe out. Good.

Let's add another breath onto this. You'll breathe in to go around. You'll pause breathing out. And then, breathe in and go further. OK?

So we'll do it on two breaths. So when you breathe out, when you're still, it's almost a relaxation. OK? So knuckles touching. Elbows just fall in the correct position.

Don't try and position them. They will go where your hand position allows them to go. So we'll go to the right. Breathe in. As far as you can.

Pause there. Breathe out. And breathe in and turn a little more. And then breathe out to come back to the center. And to the left.

Breathe in as you go around. Pause, breathing out. And breathe in and go even further around. And center. And breathe in.

Pause, breathing out. And breathe in and around, around, around. Keep your nose in line with your thumbs if you can, so you're not swiveling with the head. And center. And to the left.

Breathe out. And breathe in and go further, further, further, further, further, further, further. And rest. OK. Very nice.

So you're working in the thoracic spine rather than from the waistline or from the shoulder girdle. OK? [LAUGHTER] Put one hand-- what we're thinking now is side flexion, but not side flexion for the waist. We want to restrict it to the upper torso, to the thoracic spine. So you're going to place a hand right under your armpit, like this, as far as you can.

And use the heel of the hand as a brace. The other hand goes behind your head. And from there, you press with this hand under your armpit and lift your elbow up to the ceiling. But don't allow yourself to go too far. And that's on an outward breath.

And then breathe in to come back. And breathe out. And over. That's good. And breathe in as you come back.

And out. And in. And out. And in. Very good.

Change over to the other side. And it's interesting. What I see is the curve in your thoracic spine, rather than into the waistline. OK. Other side.

You're supposed to breathe out through your mouth, right? Yes. OK. Ideally, we breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Yeah.

I find you can breathe out longer through the mouth. Yeah. OK? So really get this hooked up here. It doesn't matter where the elbow goes as long as the heel of the hand is there.

And you need to push with the hand. OK? And this elbow can be slightly forward. So take a breath in. Just now.

And breathe out and reach. And breathe in to come up. And breathe out. And breathe in. It looks good.

Just relax through here just a little more. There you go. And I've lost count. Was that three? Yes, one more time.

Just relax. That's better. And that's very nice. And relax. Be careful how you-- a lot of people will sit straight rigidly.

You need to think that the-- although your shoulders are in line with the hips the torso shouldn't be like so. Because that's putting tension onto the lumbar spine. It should be controlled from here. But it's a softer back as you do it. You see how the difference?

You tend to do that. It changed when you brought it in here. Good. Thank you. Let's go back to this little number here.

Now you're going to have to stabilize a little more through your center on this. So let me just show you what you're going to do. You're going to do to there what we've done. Then you're leaving your arms and lift your elbows up as if you're going to put them onto a high armchair. Then pull your elbows back, so you feel it very much into the rhomboids.

Straighten your arms. And then, lift the sternum up to the ceiling as you pull your arms back. And come up straight. Wrap your arms around. Take hold of the scapula.

And just relax. So let me tell you the breath. There are quite a few. So we're going to breathe out this time to start. So you breathe out and open.

Breathe in and lift your elbows. You're resting, so they're parallel to each other, your arms are. Now as you breathe out, pull your elbows back behind you. Go on. Pull.

Pull. Pull. Pull. Now leave your elbows there. And just take your lower arm back behind you as if you're trying to reach something behind your back.

So we're going to go a little. Now this is all on the outward breath. Now on the inward breath, you're going to lift your sternum up to the ceiling. Lift the sternum up. Lift the sternum up.

Come up straight. Wrap your arms around and breathe out and let your head hang down. And so pull with your fingers, so that you're pulling your scapula away from the center. And then come up straight, ready to start again. [LAUGHING] You felt that, I think.

Great. So palms down. Breathe out as you open. Breathe in. Drop the scapula as you lift your elbows so the shoulders stay down.

But as if you're resting your arms on to an armchair. There. So that's it. Now from there, just slide your elbows back behind you, drawing the shoulder blades down. This is an outward breath.

Now continue the outward breath and stretch your arms back. And just imagine someone's taking your hands and gently pulled you back. Now as you inhale, hold that and lift the sternum up to the ceiling. And stretch your arms way back. And feel the sense-- that's good.

I feel it straight away. And I come up straight, breathing out. Wrap your arms around and just relax the upper back. And rest. I think about two is enough of that one.

OK. OK? So again, we're just getting the mobility in the upper back. Let's turn around and face the back of the chair. Oh, sorry.

Yeah, that's good there. OK. Again, get your back straight but not rigid. So I want the natural curve but the back muscles should be soft. Actually, if you think if you're in this position think of your hip bones and your floating rib pulling together as if there's a large hand going around your waist.

Just get that feeling of wrapping. And that will put your back into the right position. That's good. Just a little softer here. OK?

Now place your right hand onto the back of the chair and to the center. Just-- sorry. This back! This back. Yes, there's two backs to choose from. Place your left hand behind your head.

Just a little further. Now turn your head to your right shoulder. Take a breath in. Now as you breathe out, just gently lift your left elbow up to the ceiling. And continue.

You've got the thoracic spine working now. You're going to go into the waistline. Pause there, breathing in. And as you breathe out, slide your hand off the head and take it further it over. And turn the palm up to the ceiling and reach.

Turn the palm back. Come up straight with your arm up straight. And then place it back behind your head. Breathing in. And breathe out.

And go over. Pause here, breathing in. Stretch your hand out. Turn the head a little in the direction that you're going. Reach and rotate.

Rotate back. Come up straight. And place your hand back behind your head. And one more time. Go over.

Soften through here. Stretch it over. Pause, breathing in. Then breathe out and stretch. Turn the head a little in the direction you're going, so you're looking slightly down towards the floor.

Rotate your arm and reach little more. Come up straight. And place your hand back. And we'll do the other side. So hand behind the head.

So the head is very slightly turned towards the direction you're going. So it's that way. OK? Right hand behind your head. Take your breath in.

Now as you breathe out, think of your elbow going up to the ceiling first, and then stretching over. Stretch your arm out. Reach Rotate it. The palm up to the ceiling to get more stretch through the upper arm. Rotate it back.

Come up straight. And hand back to your head. So breathe in. Now breathe out as you go over. Hold it there as you breathe in.

And now, breathe out. Stretch your arm and reach. Rotate your arm. And stretch a little more. Rotate it back.

And then come straight. One more time. And over breathing out. Pause, breathing in. Breathe out and reach.

Rotate your arm. And stretch a little more. And then come up and relax. And rest. Place both hands-- how are you feeling?

OK? Mhm. Place both hands onto the back of chair. OK. Just again watch this.

OK, from there, take a breath in. And as you breathe out just gripping the chair-- well, not gripping, but holding reasonably hard on the chair-- lift your sternum up towards the ceiling and arch into the thoracic spine going backwards. But don't let your head drop. Keep your head supported. And come up straight.

And now you're going to breathe in as you go back. So breathe in. Lift the sternum. And arch back. Keep the lower back a little softer than that.

And breathe out to come back. And breathe in. And lift. Extend a little more. And breathe out to come back.

Last time. And breathe in. Lift. Through here a little more. No, not through here.

This bit. There you go. That's it. And come back. Do you see how you want to work from here rather than from here.

OK. Swing around the other direction. Actually, let's sit sideways on the chair. Like so? OK.

Place the outside hand across and hold onto the chair. And stretch this arm up to the ceiling. That's it. This one here. Now turn your head in the direction you're going.

Take a breath in. And as you breathe out, stretch and reach over. Very similar to what we did earlier, but it's just getting a longer stretch. Oh. [LAUGHS] That's good.

And breathe in to come back. So your arm across the front of the torso is stopping you from going too far. And breathe out. Just feel as though you have got a hand just above your waist. Come on, stretch a little more through here.

Yeah, that's it. And back. And breathe out and stretch. And back. And turn around to the other direction.

And I'll move your block. It's not good to have your feet dangling. It's best to have a good right angle, so it can stabilize the pelvis much more. That feels much better with your block, doesn't it? Yes.

And across. Take the other arm up. Lift and turn the head. And reach. Stretch over.

Reach as far as you can. Feel that imaginary hand just above the waistline. And breathe in to come up. And breathe out and stretch. And breathe in.

Come up. One more time. And breathe out and reach. And breathe in to come up. And relax.

Stand up, everyone. And now just let your arms hang by your sides. And just feel where your shoulders are. I'm just coming around just to-- now when I touched your shoulders earlier, remember how tight they were? A big difference.

They're different. Yeah. You need to get-- can you just go to there? Does that feel odd to you? It feels like my shoulders are going-- No, don't do anything with the shoulders.

Because what's happening is you're tending to go like that. So without involving the shoulders, just think of the whole upper torso. Just slide a bit. That's it. There we go.

OK. Now just soften the sternum here. There you go. That's it. OK.

Got it. That's better. Yeah. Very good. OK.

Thank you very much, ladies. Thank you! [APPLAUSE]

Comments

Beautiful detailed work for the upper body.Thankyou
Judith
That is amazing! So thoughtful and precise. Thank you. Julie
Great warm-up for upper body. Very detailed, precise and thoughtful. My first Pilates teacher studied with Alan around 1985 in England.Thank you !
1 person likes this.
Simple calm therapeutic and really realeses the muscles. Many thanks Mr Herdman.
1 person likes this.
Love this! I'm going to try it every day after working at the computer.
1 person likes this.
Amazing! Beauty, grace, wisdom, efficiency. Thank you for sharing.
Oh yes! This will be a nice addition to my consultations with pregnant women too.
1 person likes this.
Wonderful class. Especially to do whilst pregnant! Thank you.
1 person likes this.
So precise , very good !
Wonderful! Thank you!
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