Your biceps are the hardworking muscles that run down the front of your upper arm between your shoulder and your elbow. They allow you to lift children and put your favorite new set of luggage into the car. They bear the brunt of that mean Chaturanga you throw down in yoga class. So, to thank them for the work they do, you should give your biceps a delicious, deep stretch from time to time. Next time you've been lifting grocery bags onto the counter or typing at your desk for hours, take five and show your arms and shoulders some love.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Roll your shoulders up and back, as if you were tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets.
Clasp your hands or a yoga strap behind your back and straighten your arms. Whether or not you'll need a strap depends on the tightness of your biceps and shoulders. If you do need the strap, fold it in half and place one hand on either side of the fold. Then move your hands as close together as you can while still keeping your elbows straight. If you can clasp your hands together, turn your palms either up or down; turning them down provides a deeper stretch.
Lift your hands up and away from your back, keeping your arms straight, until you feel the stretch in your biceps. For a deeper stretch, hinge at the waist and bend forward, allowing your clasped hands to fall past your head if your flexibility allows.
Hold the stretch for 15 seconds or as long as it feels comfortable. Return to standing, unclasp your hands and shake your arms out.
Sit on the floor on your bottom with your knees bent and your feet flat. Inhale, roll your shoulders back and lengthen your neck.
Reach behind you and place both hands flat on the floor with your fingers pointing away from your hips. Straighten your arms.
Exhale and slide your bottom toward your heels until you feel the stretch in your biceps and the front of your shoulders.
Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds, then scoot your bottom back to starting position. Repeat the stretch up to 4 times.
Foam Roller Stretch
Lay a foam roller horizontally across a yoga mat.
Lie on your side on the mat and place one armpit on the top middle of the foam roller. Place your bottom arm straight up and parallel to the ground as if you were raising your hand. Support your body by placing your opposite (top) hand on the floor.
Lean the front of your bottom shoulder into the foam roller. Allow the palm of that bottom arm to face the ceiling.
Use your supporting hand and legs to move your body side to side, rolling out your bicep. When you move your body, you'll move the roller between your shoulder and inner elbow. Stop and allow the muscle to release for at least 30 seconds when you hit a tender spot.
Turn to your other side when you're ready and roll out the other bicep.
S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.