Have you ever suffered from a stiff neck? You know, the area above your shoulders that holds all of your stress, frustration and tension? Yeah, that’s the spot.
For many people, the neck and shoulders are a chronic area of discomfort and nagging pain. Stretching your neck once or twice a day is one of the easiest prevention techniques to keep your neck tension manageable.
So, if you’re like me and are used to dealing with neck pain or stiffness, try these simple exercises and stretches to help to reduce and control that unwanted tension.
Occipital Release with the acuBall is an effective way to relieve muscle pain naturally. I can’t and won’t live without it
The acuBall can be used to provide effective relief from neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and more. Developed by Dr. Cohen, the acuBall stimulates blood flow helping to ‘flush out’ built-up toxins that accumulate in tight muscles causing pain. The acuBall works by utilizing your own bodyweight.
- Lie down, on your back, on a hard surface and/or yoga mat.
- Place the acuBall at the bottom (lip) of your skull (Occipital Bone). Heating the acuBall in the microwave beforehand also feels great!
- Fully release body weight for 3 minutes or more taking deep, full breathes to relax.
- Nod your head up and down for several rounds.
- Next, gently turn the head side to side for several rounds.
- Continue to breathe. Tight areas will initially feel tender, then resolve over 1-2 minutes. Areas of chronic discomfort will take time to release.
Practicing Occipital Release with the acuBall is a staple in my daily routine.
Side Neck Stretch
- While sitting in a comfortable position, lengthen the spine and relax your chin level with the floor.
- Exhale and tip the right ear to the right shoulder; work to feel space between your ear and shoulder.
- Continue to draw the left shoulder down from the left ear and flex the left palm, reaching through the heel of the hand toward the floor.
- With long, calm deep breaths, feel and visualize space in the tightness of the neck. Being gentle, experiment moving the left arm forward or back to help change the sensation to meet your needs.
- To heighten the sensation, take the right hand and gently draw the left side of the head away from the shoulder even more.
- Continue to breathe and explore moving the jaw and mindfully moving the chin, up or down, to change the sensation of the stretch from the side of the neck to the front or back of the neck.
The suggested time to hold these stretches is 10 breaths. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side, and repeat both several times a day.
Focused Muscle Groups
- Scalene Muscles (These muscles are on the sides of the neck)
- Trapezius (This muscle is located in the upper back, feeding into the base of the skull)
- Levator Scapulae (This muscle runs from cervical vertebrae 1-4 to the inner scapulae, one on each side)
Back of the Neck and Spine Stretch
- Sitting comfortably, interlace the fingers behind the base of the skull.
- Keeping the shoulders relaxed, exhale and drop the chin to the chest.
- Breathing calmly, resist the head into the clasped hands, working to broaden the upper back and draw the shoulder blades away from the spine.
- Continue to resist the head, keeping the chin to the chest; feel the shoulders drop away from the ears.
- Experiment rounding the upper back or moving the elbows up or down to shift the sensation from the neck to the mid-upper back.
The suggested time to hold this stretch is 10 breaths.
Focused Muscle Group
- Trapezius and Rhomboids (The muscles attach at thoracic vertebrae 2-5, run to each inner shoulder blade.)
Life is stressful. Taking time each day to stretch and relax will help you keep that 10-pound head of yours upright with a little less tension and pain.
Roll Your Back
80% of Americans have or have had back problems. Rolling your back top to bottom is an amazing way to decrease pain, aches, and discomfort. Try this:
Place the foam roller behind you on the floor and lean back onto the center of the roller. Lift your bottom off the floor and support your head in your hands. Using your legs, roll yourself along the foam roller in long strokes or sections along your back, being sure to work your entire back body.
Experiment with rounding or arching your back in places, or leaning only to one side and rolling. Also, try raising one arm straight out above your head at a time. If your balance is good, try extending both arms while you roll your upper back.
Spend a few minutes here and notice the improvement in your back’s comfort and your back stretching. You can also try this standing against the wall with the foam roller behind you.
Roll Your Legs and Hips
Many people complain of hip, sacrum and leg pain. Rolling is a very safe and effective way to decrease knee, hip, and even back pain. Try this:
Starting on your right outer leg and hip, place your left foot on the floor. Using your leg and arms, push and pull your right leg along the soft foam roller, being sure to work the entire area from upper hip to the outside of the knee.
After several times over, move to your quadriceps. Using your forearms, push-pull yourself across the foam roller from pelvis to knees. Play with internal and external rotation to hit all areas. Move onto the left hip and repeat the same process.
Finally, sitting onto the foam roller, with the help of your arms and hands, push-pull your hamstrings along the foam roller.
Oh, that pain in my butt! Many of us have been there, and sometimes stretching can actually cause more discomfort. Working with a foam roller can soothe sore muscles and give you the relief you are looking for. Try this:
Sit onto the foam roller and lean onto your left glute. Cross your left ankle over your right knee and begin to roll on your glute tissue (your booty). Be playful with different angles and in rolling high or low on your glute.
If you find a sensitive area, feel free to just hold there for a few deep exhalations and then move on. After a few minutes, switch to the other side, repeating the process.
No More Neck Pain
A stiff neck, a tight jaw, and even shoulder pain can all be soothed with a few strikes of the foam roller. Try this:
Lying on the floor, place the foam roller behind your neck and rest your head on the foam roller. Kindly turn your head side to side, feeling the relieving pressure at the base of the skull and neck against the foam roller.
Second, moving only a few inches, rock your head and neck back and forth to work any other tightness out. Be sweet, as the neck for many is a sensitive area. But, this may be the relief you are looking for.
Foam Rolling does not replace stretching or other maintenance care, but it can assist in a more effective stretching routine or yoga experience, not to mention improved athletic performance. Mayo fascia release can also improve your massage therapy sessions, as the therapist does not have to work so hard at the surface of your tissue. It also can help your adjustments hold longer.
I may be a yoga teacher, but it is my goal to teach my students how to take better care of their bodies — because you only get one, and replacement parts are never as good as the originals.
Want more from your foam roller?
Join me and “Roll This!” Click here to access the most detailed workbook you will ever own with step-by-step details to every move you’ll want to know when it comes to the foam roller and Dr. Cohen’s acuBall.
This post was originally published in the July 2014 Edition of Nature’s Pathways.
Smelly, stuffy office air, back pain, focus & concentration are real concerns. Most people seldom truly solve these problems, they just find temporary relief. But here’s the great thing!
Essential oils are an amazing way to boost immunity, de-stress, clear the air (literally), and YES, help ditch that nagging neck or backache.
What if one essential oil could make all the difference? Here are Essential Oils to get you through any situation at work:
Work can sometimes be less than pleasant, especially when you have deadlines and other people to please. Help curb that stressful environment RIGHT NOW with essential oils.
Suggested Essential Oils for Calming & Stress Relief:
- Stress Away (a Young Living Blend)
- Peace & Calming (a Young Living Blend)
- Citrus, Lemon, Lime
2. Stinky Smell
That smell. You know the one that is always lingering, and you just can’t figure out where it’s coming from, but it’s there and less than pleasant. Or maybe it’s (gulp) a co-worker, the frig, or a neighboring business. No matter what, smells can interact with our ability to focus and concentrate. Let essential oils help.
Suggested Essential Oils for Cleaning the Air:
- Thieves (a Young Living Blend)
- Tea Tree
3. Sad Sally/ A Case of the Mondays
As much as we want to love life every day, and keep the positive vibe going. Some days are just harder than others. The right aromatherapy and oils can aid in boosting your mood and helping the day to feel a bit brighter.
Suggested Aromatherapy for Mood Boosting:
- Stress Away (Young Living Bend)
- Ylang Ylang
Maybe it was the softball game over the weekend, or the fall you accidentally took outside the front door, or all that sitting you have been doing. Your body hurts. And that will impact your work production if not addressed. Applying essential oils is a great way to kick that nagging pain to the curb.
Suggested Essential Oils for Pain Relief:
- Balsam Fir
- PanAway (Young Living Blend)
- Deep Relief (Young Living Blend)
Adding essential oils into your work routine is an easy and effective way to boost your work environment and feel more like yourself.
The best part: when you use them, everyone benefits. What if one oil could make all the difference?
How about you? Do you use essential oils at work?
Please share in the comments section below!
Learn about diffusing and personal application contact Hope directly for a private presentation. How not all essential oils are created equal.
Or how to get essential oils for your own use-contact Hope!
Our feet carry us everywhere, yet we constantly neglect them and their need for space, movement, and balance. You go to “workout” and shove them in tight padded shoes. At yoga, your instructor tells you to “ground your feet” or “spread your toes” before Tree pose, and those poor feet are simply atrophied body parts clumping around with you.
If you are one of many who suffer from bunions, hammer toe, plantar fasciitis, pronation, and supination issues, there is way more you could be doing to help yourself. Foot problems are just the tip of the iceberg. What about your hips, back, and shoulder issues? Did you know that your little tootsies could be to blame?
Here are five of my favorite foot moves to get you walking in the right direction.
1. Rolling out your feet.
I love my acuball. If you don’t own one, grab a small ball to get that foot a moving! A tennis ball or lacrosse ball work great! Breaking up tight and sticky fascia is step one to release your feet. Be ready, this will surely open up a can of worms on the rest of your body. Think: everything is connected! Your feet have been in casts (shoes) most of your life. To truly wake them up is going to require you to take the shoes off and slowly step away.
2. Negative Heel Stretch
The soul of the lower leg is the soleus muscle. This muscle is lying flat to the lower leg under the gastrocnemius (aka the calf). When this overlooked muscle is tight, he can cause your dreaded plantar fasciitis to flair. Hold this stretch for a minute at a time to help bring relief to that irritated plantar tendon and lower leg muscle. Don’t do this just once – do it a few times and really stretch it out! With shoes on all day and most with some sort of heel, this negative heel stretch is helping you undo all that pressure to the ball of the foot and shortening of the lower leg muscles.
3. Functional Calf Release
This is one of the staple moves I teach in my classes – anyone with legs needs to be doing this release. Take a modestly wide stride with one foot planted forward. The simple movement of bending and extending the back leg (keeping the heel down) will help release the feet with an added bonus of hamstring, hip, and back relief.
4. Ankle Roll
I never realized how tight and sore my ankles were until I started to stretch them. Using a strap or necktie wrapped under the foot, rotate the outer edge of the foot towards the sky and lengthen through the outer leg. Our shoes leave us high and dry with immobile feet, stiff ankles, and an aching upper body. This stretch will help you earn back some of that mobility
5. Toe Spread
Between our toes are muscles. Our feet become stiff just like any other area of the body when not used to the fullest. With lack of use and high pressure from heeled shoes, our little toes become stiff and quite frankly unusable. Take a seat and let your fingers and toes snuggle up together and get moving. Beware that if your feet rarely receive TLC like this, start small. Instead of your fingers, try pencils, then graduate to markers, and then to your fingers. A little goes a long way.
Now those aching feet of yours no longer have an excuse to not feel amazing. As for the rest of the body, it all starts from the ground up.
Namaste to all my foot-friendly peeps!
CHECK THE VIDEO FOR DETAILS ON EACH OF MY FIVE FOOT MOVES!