Good to have you back, mind-body students!
Over the summer, I had a few people reach out to me about health issues they were having with their head, neck, and/or shoulders. This area of the body, which are the shoulder girdles and everything that sits above them, have a similar group of techniques that we use to restore and maintain health.
Issues that people frequently ask me about in this area include: headaches, migraines, sore neck and upper back, frozen shoulder, eustachian tube disfunction (“clogged ears”), tinnitus (constant noise or ringing in the ears), and a variety of other forms of chronic issues or pain. Many many people suffer from these issues, especially due to the toll that working at a desk over a computer for an extended time can have.
For people that have issues like these, I will often give them a “mind-body prescription” that looks something like this:
Mind-Body Prescription for Head, Neck and Shoulder Girdle Health
Before we begin, it is key to know my Rule of 80% Effort. Especially when it comes to the head and neck area, you are in danger of doing more harm than good if you push your body too much. The head and neck require very gentle movements to heal and increase the flow of energy. So do 80% effort with all these exercises!
First Stretch: Iron on the Wall
For most people, the muscles between the neck and the shoulders (the trapezius muscle is the easiest to feel here) are as hard as a rock! This is because modern people are constantly looking down at their desk or their phone, as so this muscle is always under tension while trying to stabilize the head and neck.
Iron on the Wall takes the tension out of this muscle group and allows it to relax. Many people find this exercise does wonders for not only their neck, but their back, shoulders, and head as well. All of those areas are interconnected by muscles! Do Iron on the Wall for 3 minutes, twice a day. You can even do it with your kids!
Second Stretch: Elbows Over Head and Behind the Back
Next, we want to give a good stretch to your shoulder muscles in all direction, so we want to do two complementary exercises: Elbows Over Head, and Elbows Behind the Back.
The over head part of this technique opens up the lungs (the sides of the lungs especially) and relaxes the arms and shoulders. The behind the back part of the technique allows you to relax the neck, deltoids, and lats especially well. Give yourself space to relax and breath deep while you stretch. You’ll want to spend two minutes in each of these postures, twice a day.
Third Stretch: Rotating the Neck Using the Wall and a Block
The next technique is for increasing our range of motion when rotating the neck. You would be surprised how many people have lost a lot of mobility of their neck! Are you someone who can rotate their neck more to one side than the other? That is a very common issue too.
Rotating the Neck with the Wall and a Block is a great way to regain your lost mobility in the neck, as well as increase the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, and reduce muscle stress.
The neck doesn’t require stretching for a long period of time. Instead, do one version of this stretch five times a day, but for only 1 minute to each side.
Fourth Stretch: Neck and Upper Back “Emergency Posture”
This technique, the upper neck stretch on a table (also called the Emergency Upper Back posture) is great for when you are in your office and your neck and upper back are really bothering you. However, it is also a classic posture for releasing tension from your head, neck, upper back, and shoulders.
Sit in this posture twice a day for 3 minutes each time.
Final Technique: Face Meditation
Finally, you want to conclude our mind-body prescription each day with a nice meditation. In this case, you should probably be doing the Face Meditation, which focuses the mind on relaxing every layer of the face until you have the sensation of being just a skull with no soft tissues pulling on it.
Many people who suffer from chronic tension, pain, or stress in or around the face and head don’t realize how much tension they hold in their face.
You can sit in this meditation for as long as you like, but I suggest doing it for 10-15 minutes at first, and then sit longer in it as you get better at relaxing and focusing the mind on each part of the face.
As always, happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!