When it comes to looking after our neck and shoulders we need to start from the ground up. Many of the problems we experience in the upper body have a close relationship to those below. Every single step we take with a tight lower body is pitching our upper body forward. Causing us to tense up to stop ourselves stumbling. Yes, your sore neck is being aggravated by your calves and hamstrings. (Here is a great article from Katy Bowman about the prevalent forward lean. It includes the ribs to the wall test we will do in class today.)
So that means to take care of your neck and shoulders you need to continue your daily maintenance program (from your handout and as detailed at the end of the blog). You will be delighted to realise (as I was myself) that strengthening your lateral hips is a boon for your shoulders. When we start supporting our body weight with the big muscles that were designed to do it - the pressure on everything else is eased dramatically.
Even though we do need to take care of the tension in the feet, legs and pelvis to care for the shoulders and neck, we can also do some other lovely focused sequences in a big upper body unwind.
One of the other things we can do is check in regularly with how often our head comes forward of our shoulders. This causes the small muscles in the back of the neck to tighten in their effort to hold the weight of the head. If you have constant tightness here you wear out the discs of the cervical vertebrae and you also decrease the circulation to your brain which is never a good idea.
So today we will do Head Ramp and Head Hang as seen below. Try and do some of these every day just to remind yourself that it is a habit well worthy of changing. You might be surprised how often it sneaks in. Especially when you are looking ahead and concentrating (yes, I just caught myself doing it at the computer).
Another contributor to neck and shoulder tension is how we breathe. When we are under stress we tend to elevate the entire shoulder girdle, instead of the preferred method of stretching the ribcage open as we inhale. Practice your rib cage breathing whenever you can.
Here is Martha Peterson teaching the Side Bend variation we will do in class this week. Martha is coming to teach Somatic Exercise Coaching and some public workshops at KYO in November. The workshops are full but there are still some private sessions available. Contact Martha directly regarding these.
Daily Maintenance Week 6:
(We have now completed your Restorative Exercise™ Gait Essentials program)
Foot Alignment - The muscles in your legs and pelvis don't work correctly unless the feet point straight ahead when you walk. (Much like the balance of the tires of your car). Use the straight edge of your yoga mat, floor boards or similar to line up the outside edges of your feet (true hip distance apart).
Calf Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day
Foot Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day - if the top of your foot is very tight you can try the chair version.
Knee Cap Release - Start with straight legs and try to lift and lower your knee caps. Find a wall to lean against if you are having difficulty standing. Start off with the feet about 30cm away. Once you've achieved the Knee Cap Release here move a little closer. 30 seconds to one minute - or any time you find yourself standing around!
Monster Walk - Everyone's favourite! With or without resistance band. Feet are straight, hip width apart. If using the band keep tension on it. Your weight is in your heels. Start at one end of your mat, hips forward and move sideways - one step at a time. Go up and down your mat around 4 to 6 times.
Double Calf Stretch - Place your hands on the seat of a kitchen/desk chair. Line up the outside edges of your feet and straighten your legs all the way. Your weight should be back in your heels and all your toes lift-able. See if you can lift your tailbone up to the ceiling without bending your knees.
Did you enjoy Arm Swings today? Or maybe you feel it is an area you would like to work on. Katy has a great class in her Alignment Snacks series called "Gotta Get Down to Arm Swing Town". It also features some pelvic listing, shoulder, calf and foot stretching. A good all round 26 minute class taking you towards optimal walking. Once you've downloaded it you can watch it as many times as you like.