Do you need neck and shoulder stretches to help you get rid of tension and stress through the holiday season?
I have seen an increasing number of my clients this month needing a little more TLC. Each client is different; sometimes they need restorative poses, and sometimes they need to focus on specific areas of the body.
The most common areas are the neck and shoulders.
Here are some great stretches and activities to help your tight shoulders and neck:
Start at the top: Head and neck
A good starting activity is one that focuses on breath and subtle movement. Begin to on your back on a mat or rug. Close your eyes (preferably in a dimly lit room) and start to notice your breath. Don’t judge it, just notice it! When you feel like you are comfortable, then slowly turn your head to the right, looking over your shoulder. Stay there for a minute then move to the left side, again relaxing there for a minute. Now begin to repeat looking right and left, but moving continuously, smoothly and slowly. The back of your head should feel like it is getting a massage.
This exercise you will also stay lying on your back. This time you will move your chin down, towards your chest (cervical flexion). Hold the pose and focus on your breath. Then gently slide the neck into the opposite position, chin upward, towards the ceiling (cervical extension). Repeating from above, the slow and smooth movement, looking down and up.
You can do the following stretches sitting up or lying on the floor. I also prefer to use a yoga strap, but if you don’t have one, you can still make the movement patterns. Another suggestion is to use a hand towel.
Prepare the loop on your yoga strap to be shoulder distance apart. Thread your arms through the loop and reach them forward, keeping the strap tight. Begin to slightly round your upper back so that your shoulder blades (scapulae) separate away from your spine. Translation, round your upper back and neck. Inhale on the rounding and exhale on the way back to your starting position. Repeat this 10 times or more if you like.
After the first arm pattern, try starting in the same position, with arms reaching forward. Create big shoulder circles, rolling your shoulders backward. Again, maybe 10 times or as many as you would like to practice. Then repeat forward shoulder rolls.
Keep your arms forward and in the loop, then lift them overhead. Make sure the strap is tight so you will feel your Lats stretching (sides of your body). Make the loop smaller if you do not feel the stretch. Hold the overhead stretch for at least 30 seconds or more. To get a bigger stretch, keep the arms lifted and side bend right then left.
Once you have these exercises down, practice them and do them throughout the week. I know there are many of you out there who need a little extra care, so take the time to do these, you will find great results, and stay tuned for more next week!