How often do you end up at the end of the day feeling drained, de-energized, and in need of a break and some relaxation? There can be any number of reasons that this happens, but let’s take a look at one issue that has a quick fix, once you are aware of it.
Often at the end of a day of concerted effort or absorption in a task, we don’t realize that our shoulders have somehow managed to creep up towards our ears and stay there. Add in cell phone use, leaning over a computer, or even hunched over a beloved hobby, and you have a recipe for “creepy shoulders”.
Although it may seem like a simple thing, the effect on you, your body, and your energy can be huge. What are some of the effects that can come from this?
Let’s take it from the top. Headaches. Then there’s neck pain, shoulder impingement, and tendonitis in your shoulder or biceps. Looking at it more globally, there’s something really big that happens. It affects your breathing.
Let’s take a closer look at that one. Thought for the day: Your shoulder blades are attached to your torso because they sit on your rib cage. “So what?” you might say. “Of course they are!” But what happens when those shoulder blades have crept upwards and refuse to come back down? It may happen so much and so often that you don’t even notice that you are doing it. It could even be your “new normal.”
Here’s the thing. Once your shoulder blades have crept up, since they are attached to your ribs, it means that a normal, relaxed, breathing pattern cannot be established.
Let’s do an experiment. Sit tall, feet flat on the ground. Now, bring your shoulders up towards your ears and try to take a deep breath. Chances are that you end up only being able to take a shallow breath. That’s because you need your diaphragm to fully engage for a deep breath. Your diaphragm is also attached to your ribs. If your ribs are stuck in the “up” position, being able to let your diaphragm down so that you can fill your lungs will be impossible.
What happens next is that, after awhile, you are not getting the oxygen you need. Your body is also in panic mode, as in “let’s get out of here,” and “I am not feeling relaxed.” Let’s pause for a minute here and reflect. Not sometimes, but EVERY TIME you go to a place of relaxation (a message, meditation class, yoga), the first thing that happens is that they get you to take deep, slow breaths. That’s because you will get more oxygen to your entire body that way, AND because it will put your body in good alignment! Shoulders down, chest open, neck relaxed, torso perched well on top of your hips, back with its natural curves. Ahhhh…..
Enter the quick fix
Grab a couple of weights that are pretty heavy for you. You want them to help bring your shoulders down. Holding a weight in each hand, stand tall, feet shoulder width apart. Arms are straight down by your sides. Bring your shoulders up toward your ears with all your might and take a breath in. THE TRICKY PART is this: DO NOT BEND YOUR ELBOWS as you bring your shoulders up. Just move your shoulder blades up. Nothing else. If this is hard for you, it means that you are dragging your torso up with them. Your whole upper body is getting involved.
Shoulder Shrug 1
Shoulder Shrug 2
What we are looking for is for you to be able to move your shoulder blades by themselves. This may require a bit of focus and awareness on your part. It’s worth it though. Getting your shoulder blades to move independently of your torso is a great way to start to unlock positions that may be predisposing you to shoulder creep and poor posture.
Let’s say you are now standing there with your shoulders up by your ears, and your elbows are not bent. Now let your shoulders DROP straight down, using the weights to assist. GO DOWN WITH A BIG BREATH OUT. Using your best awareness, posture, and not compensating with your rib cage, torso, or arms, repeat this move 10 times, or until you feel that your shoulders have come to roost on your ribs and not anywhere else. You should be feeling the relaxation that occurs in this position.
Check it out. Stay with it. Imprint this feeling in your mind so that you can call it up during the day. Compare it to how you feel if your shoulders are doing the creep thing again, and use this new feeling to help you reset back down.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s NOT imperative that you use weighs for this. Clearly, most people don’t carry weights around with them during the day just in case they need them! Using weight initially, however, helps you get a better shoulder drop than you would without them. Then you can continue on without needing the weight.
There’s one other thing about this. Let’s go back to that rough day where you are not feeling very relaxed at the end of it. You may even be feeing so drained that you just want to sit and relax, not go to the gym or pursue some other exercise. Bringing this exercise into your day on a regular basis can help you feel more like getting out there and doing a bit more to keep yourself moving and energized. It’s all good.
© 2018 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.