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:


Shoulder tension can’t save you now!


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!


About Dantzel

Pilates and dance teacher by day, science fiction and fantasy writer by whenever.

Posted on September 14, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Good post. I’m dealing with a few of these issues as well..

  2. Sincères remerciements. J’apprécie cette info précieuse.

  3. Fantastic web site. A lot of helpful information here.
    I am sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious.
    And certainly, thank you to your sweat!

  4. Cred că am mâncat prea ample stafide acoperite cu iaurt
    . Dorința de a posta povestiri erotice sau hardcore . Dar
    cu siguranță nu înseamnă că voi renunța la un capriciu .
    Fiecare dintre noi are nevoie pentru a merge mai departe în existența noastră .

  5. I was recommended this blog through my cousin. I’m not sure whether or not this
    post is written via him as no one else understand such targeted about my problem.
    You are incredible! Thank you!

  6. My neck, back are curving forward. I’m concerned and want to stand tall and straight. I’m 5’10 and 54 years old. Any advice! Thanks!

    • Victoria! I hope you get this message. This slipped in with all the spam junk. You want to look to balance your body.
      First of all, checking and correcting your posture throughout the day is essential. You can’t let your back round forward for 10 hours a day and only spend 1/2 hour (or whatever) working out to try to fix it. So I’m going to give some exercise advice below, but it won’t completely solve your problem if you don’t take steps to fix how you’re moving through your day.
      That said…
      Generally, when your neck and back are curving forward, your upper back muscles and your abdominal muscles are weak, which gradually tightens your lower back and your chest. So you want to be looking for exercises that will strengthen your upper back and core (not the tops of the shoulders, though) and stretch your chest, neck, and lower back. If you have more specific questions, comment back or find me on Facebook and I’ll give you my email address so we can chat about it and try to find an exercise regimen that will work for you.

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