I selected this ancient breathing and stretching exercise to teach people for one simple reason.
When we consider exercise fads that have come and gone, it's hard to look past something that has been practised for thousands of years by millions of people.
Lift the sky is a wonderful exercise to gently stretch the spine, open up your lungs and activate the shoulder blades (scapula).
I have taught this exercise to thousands of people and know many people start their day with this exercise. Having less back, shoulder and neck pain, plus feeling mentally and emotionally uplifted and energised is a motivating factor to practise Lift the Sky. Our spine is a vital part of our skeleton, not only because it is the main pillar that supports the body, but also because the spinal cord is contained in it, and there are hundreds of nerves that branch out from the cord to serve the various body parts and organs. At home and work, many of us are locked in unhealthy postures facing the computers or TV for hours.
Often the upper spine is incorrectly bent (causing kyphosis - exaggerated rounding of the back). At the same time, the lumbar (lower) spine is often incorrectly bent inwards (lordosis - sway back) due to incorrect sitting posture. Lack of stretching and flexibility exercises cause stiffness over time. Lift the sky activates the bending and stretching of our ligaments, tendons and connective tissues.
Tight muscles and tissue around the shoulders can cause shallow breathing and neck pain. Lift the sky gently lifts and sinks the shoulders, tissues and muscles whilst rounding them and pulling them towards the middle of the spine. The action of opening and closing creates a gentle pressure that massage the heart and lungs with each exercise.
The actual movement is very similar to what we do when we wake up and have a stretch.
The lifting of the arms and opening of the lungs seems to be a very primal action us humans do. When you break this exercise down it has 3 main benefits and functions:
1) Awakens the nervous system through elongating your spine
As the name suggests the focus is on pressing up towards the sky. The lifting action when practised correctly starts at the ankles and extends all the way through the body to the finger tips and crown of the head. Powering the lower body starts with the squat and engages the legs, pelvis and spine. The stretching of the arms helps to lift the spine and recruits the core muscles and organs.
2) Releases tension and pressure
Anxiety, depression caused by stress and tension degrade our health and general happiness, learning to recognise and deal with these challenges is why these exercises were created and practised on a daily basis. The first part of this exercise aims to round the body from the shoulders down to the hips. This process drops the shoulders and helps develop diaphragmatic breathing - tight shoulders cause our breathing to become shallow and compromises health.
3) Increase blood circulation
As your body releases tension and softens, blood begins to flow more freely and circulation improves. Our joints such as the shoulders, hips, knees and elbows act as gateways within the body and as they begin to coordinate with each other we increase the flow of vital fluids in the body. The underlying concept of this exercise is that you learn to relax to stretch.