The mark of a kayaker, more than the beat up hands or a twice broken nose, or even a vocabulary diminished to the adjectives of “brown” and “stout”, would have to be the shoulders. The broad, muscular, possibly even overdeveloped, yet with a history of subluxation or dislocation, shoulders.
You know what I am talking about, the shoulders that make it annoying to squeeze three or four in the back seat on a shuttle run, because there is no room for your shoulders, despite the fact that you could fit one more person into the hip space. Kayakers rely on their shoulders. They help drive and power our paddling, allow us flexibility in our rolls, and give us something to rest our boats on when we carry them to and from the river.
Besides the physical strain on your shoulders during a day paddling, there are the long hours sitting in a car to get to and from the river, as well as the stress from our daily lives.
It is only logical that our shoulders bear the brunt of our stress, and can often be stiff and sore coming off the water. I have seen many a kayaker or raft guide melt when a fellow paddler comes up and places their hands on that magic spot on your back, right next to your shoulder blades. You know the one I’m talking about. And yes, I wish there was someone there right now too.
Below is one of my favorite shoulder stretches- It is an easy stretch that even beginners to yoga to do. It doesn’t require crazy flexibility, and will help to relieve some of the knots and tension in your neck and shoulders.
Start on all fours, in a table top position. Your hands should be under your shoulders, with your knees under your hips.
Inhale, allow your left hand to lift up off the mat, and rotate up toward the sky, opening your chest to the left. Your gaze follows your hand, looking up towards your fingers.
Exhale, allow your left hand to cross under your body, feeding through the gap between your right arm and right knee. This will bring your left shoulder, arm and ear to rest on the mat.
Inhale, allow your right arm to lift up off the mat, reaching toward the sky. Take a few deep breaths while holding this position. With each exhale, allow your body to relax, and feel the ground support your shoulder.
For a deeper stretch, you may take your right hand, and bring it to your left hip, coming into a bind.
To release the stretch, place your right hand back on the mat. Lift your left arm and shoulder off the mat, and once more, stretch your left hand up to the sky, opening your chest to the left.
Place your left hand back on the mat, returning to tabletop position, and repeat on the opposite side.