Shape Up Saturday: Shrug Off that Tension!
Welcome to Week 2 of Shape Up Saturday! This week we’re talking about letting go of all that ridiculous tension in the neck and shoulders.
Out of all the strange and painful things that people unconsciously do to their bodies, I find the stress in the neck and shoulders to be the most interesting. Nobody wants to have all that tension up there. And yet when we’re trying so hard to do a plank, drive in crazy traffic, or spend a few hours
on Facebook on the computer writing or studying, our neck and shoulders get tight and we mess up our posture.
Why do we keep hurting ourselves like this?
My opinion (freely and frequently stated during my Pilates classes) is that we have all this energy constantly running through our bodies. Even if you don’t feel particularly energetic, the potential for energy is still there. Anytime we tighten a muscle we’re directing a small amount of that energy to a particular part of our body.
The problem is that we don’t always use our energy efficiently. That plank you were holding? The work should have been more like this:
And driving? Sitting at the computer? If you think about it, hunching your shoulders does nothing. Those jerks that cut you off and those trolls on Huffington Post feel nothing when you tense your shoulders. You are the only one that feels that pain.
IT DOES YOU NO GOOD. Your stomach doesn’t get stronger from tensing your shoulders – in fact, it makes it harder to properly target the correct muscles for whatever you’re doing. You’re taking this beautiful skeletal structure and unnecessarily lifting it up.
So let’s transfer that somewhere a little more useful… like our abdominals. We want the energy to go into the muscles that can actually help us with our task, and we want to send the bad feelings away from us completely. Right? Right.
I took it upon myself to set up a Vine account yesterday when it occurred to me that Vine would actually be a useful tool for quickly showing the proper positioning for the exercises I’ll be recommending throughout my Shape Up Saturday series. Because I’m awesome I asked my husband to video me demonstrating this neck stretch – and because I’m lazy you’ll see me with no makeup. Yep.
So here it is. Try this the next time you’re sitting at a stoplight or waiting for a webpage to load:
In case using Vine was a terrible idea and I totally wasted my time and dignity posting that clip and you can’t view it, I’ll post pictures:
Sitting tall, exhale chin to chest (it’s less about tucking the chin to the chest and more about lengthening the neck while you’re down there):
Inhale and roll head to one side, nose pointing forward, neck long.
Exhale and roll head back down to the chest, still keeping the neck long.
Inhale and roll head to the other side. The more you lengthen the neck the better the stretch will be.
Repeat until the light turns green. I know this is a super simple stretch, but we all need to decrease the load on our shoulders, whether we’re writers, readers, or candlestick makers.
Did you try it? How do you feel? Did the Vine clip work for you? If you want me to cover a topic, let me know!