A short, mindful practice to help mobilise the neck and shoulders
A five minute, mindful practice to help mobilise the neck and shoulders
Last week I wrote an article about mindful movement and offered three suggestions around how you may like to approach this with a morning stretch being one of those options. I was hoping to release a series of stretching practices within this piece, however life is such a juggling act at the moment and so we have carved out the time time to edit one 5 minute sequence, which I still hope will be useful to you.
The practices presented to you are always designed to be taken slowly and mindfully with the breath. As a general rule to think about how the breath may support movement, the inhalations will favour more of an opening, or an opportunity to lengthen in the body, whilst the exhalations provide you with support to relax into something a little further.
So, sense that the inhale emphasises the stretch, whilst the exhale relaxes you further into the stretch.
Why is it good for me to stretch slowly?
Slow stretching is not only soothing for our joints and muscles it is also very calming for the nervous system. We all know how it feels to take a long sighing breath out right? It is accompanied with an instant sense of release and letting go of tension. The tension we are releasing isn’t just physical, it is emotional too. Therefore, your slow stretch is a little like a long soothing sigh for your body and your mind and may bring with it a greater sense of overall wellbeing and positivity. Combine this movement with the breath and you’ll be in a moving meditation.
This week I am offering you a short 5 minute seated practice which should help to mobilise the neck and shoulders, an area in our bodies where we have a tendency to hold onto and build up a lot of unnecessary tension. The movements are simple and can be taken from a chair or in a comfortable seated position of your choice.
As you practice bring your full awareness to the sensations around your neck and shoulders, notice how you feel before you being, during and after and pay attention to the way the breath supports the movement fully. Take the practice with me a few times and then take it on your own in silence. It may be nice to start your day with this short sequence but also to repeat it throughout the day as you notice tension accumulating around your upper back, neck and shoulders.
You don’t need any equipment, and you can even stay in your pyjamas with a cup of tea close by. Enjoy!
Mobilising the neck and shoulders:
- Sitting onto a chair with your bottom towards the front of the seat, place a block or folded blanket underneath your feet if they don’t reach the ground. Get grounded in your body, connect through the soles of your feet towards the earth and then sit tall in your upper body. To begin pay attention to your inhalations and exhalations and notice any sensations in your body that may arise. As you become familiar with your natural breath, see if you can deepen the exhalation bringing with it a sense of support in your lower torso, and notice the expansion of the inhalation which follows rising into your upper torso.
- Once you feel steady and settled into your breath, breathe in fully and on your exhalation lower your right ear towards your right shoulder, breathe in and return your head to centre, exhale left ear to left shoulder. Repeat this 4-6 times in each direction.
- Next, place your hands on top of your shoulders lightly and let your elbows point outwards. With your inhalation begin to circle the elbows forwards towards one another in front of you stretching the space across your shoulder blades, continue to circle the elbows towards the ceiling, then with the exhalation circle them behind you and draw your elbows closely to your sides. Wait for your next inbreathe to send them forwards and up again, before exhaling to take them back and down. When you have taken this a 4-6 times in one direction, change your direction and explore the inhale to take your elbows back behind you and up towards the ceiling, with the exhale circling them forwards and down.
- Settle with your hands on your knees. Notice any sensations around your neck and shoulders and sigh the breath out with a long, soothing exhalation. Bring yourself back to the flow of your natural breath and continue to follow your breath for a few more moments.
- Upon completion, spend a few moments noticing how you feel.
Next week, (so long as we continue to juggle our work/family life the way we are managing) we will explore a gentle forward folding sequence.
Thank you for now and stay safe.
“We should not take our bodies for granted. Instead we should treat them with respect; our bodies are truly wonderful and retain the capacity to be brought back to beauty and integrity at any stage in our lives.”