I have always suffered from a sore neck and shoulders – rock hard muscles and shortened nerves from tension and the headaches that go with it. Life in a pandemic is no different, and I am constantly rolling my shoulders back trying to get some relief during the day to no avail.
While catching up with Jannie last week, he reminded me of the most simple and effective stretch there is – and, of course, I was amazed (all over again) at how something so incredibly easy could work so well.
A quick test: Put your arms out to the side, shoulder height, palms facing forward, fingers straight. Now slowly mover your fingers to point backwards… Do you feel a really tight, uncomfortable pull and tingle? If you do, you desperately need to stretch out your chest, neck, shoulders and arms to lengthen those nerves and release the tension.
All you need is a towel, the floor, a chair and 20 minutes!
I can imagine that I am not alone in the stiff and sore shoulder department, as many of us are spending more time in front of our computers, on out phones or on our couches. Maybe you’ve been craning your neck over your laptop on Zoom and Skype calls like I have. Or maybe you’ve just not moved as much as you know you should have… Either way, this quick fix will not disappoint!
Grab a chair and a big towel. Fold the towel in half and roll it so you’ve got a nice thick ‘pillow’ to work with. Move to the floor and lift your legs onto the chair, so your knees are at a 90º angle and lie back, placing the towel under your neck. Your head should rest comfortably on the towel and not touch the floor; your shoulders should be flush against the ground. Adjust the towel as necessary, and make sure your back in flat on the floor.
Now for the part: put your arms out to the side, palms up and try to flatten your fingers, close your eyes and breathe. I could lie like this forever.
While the stretching and tingling sensations are almost immediate in your arms and fingers, it’ll take a bout 10 minutes before you start to feel a slow release in your neck and shoulders. 20 minutes in and you won’t believe the difference.
What exactly is happening to your body and why does this work?
As I mentioned, it seems too simple to actually work, but it does. The fascia (learn more here) across your chest and the nerves running down your arms are often tight, pulling and forcing all the other muscles in your shoulder girdle to work a lot harder too. Lying in that position for those 20 minutes allows the fascia to relax and your nerves to lengthen. This is called the Active Rest position.
While you’re lying there, you might make that your time to:
I have done this every day for a week, and I look forward to it each time. I have no doubt you will too.
Trust me, these might be the best 20 minutes of your day!