This is a post that I've had alot of experience with. My daughter fractured and dislocated her shoulder in an equestrian accident, and i've been working steadily with her ever since. It obviously has been a slow cautious and steady road in recovery. Her posture and her entire alignment was affected.
I knew we would have to work with breath, yin, and meditation.
She's coming along nicely, and even did a Vinyasa class with me yesterday with plenty of downdogs to challenge those shoulder in their rebuilt strength and flexibility.
So in my practice I notice that most peoples tension is upper back, neck and shoulders. There is a common thread that this tension is related to sitting at computers, and driving and gritting our teeth, holding back, and forward flexion from general lifestyle habits.
We often raise our shoulders in response to fear and anxiety, our posture tells so much about our emotional state. Hunched or rounded shoulders can mean you are completely overwhelmed, and feel a need to protect your heart and chest. The drawing in of the shoulders gives you the security to feel safe from expression.
The flip side of that, think of the posturing of someone who has their chest puffed up, protruding with shoulders that are pulled back, this posturing indicates false strength, often hiding feelings of inadequacy with false bravado.
The irony of this posturing, is these people obviously are over compensating because they are actually needing reassurance, and yearn to be nurtured, and supported. They do the opposite with this posturing by appearing stand off-ish and unapproachable, or intimidating.
Let's start with posture as a general assessment of long term maintenance for you neck and shoulder health.
A good place to begin correcting neck pain is in the total alignment of your spine. Alot of our stress has a root cause in gravity itself. Holding our head up is quite the task by the end of the day, adding on weak posture either by unawareness, or structure, and it's amplified. Alot of neck pain can be traced to improper posture, adding a large amount of stress on the cervical spine, either with a forward head tilt or as previously mentioned hunched and rounded shoulders. This pulls and causes muscle overload in the neck, back and shoulders, causing it to have to continually overwork to counterbalance the pull of gravity of the head.
I realize alot of our lives today are in constant forward flexion, texting, driving, typing,
reading, tablets, etc, most electronics are not directly in front of us, and often our positioning for comfort is not ergonomically conducive to our spines, shoulders, and neck.
So there are ways to become conscious and aware of your habits that can be directly physically dragging you down, and correct them in consistent practice a few minutes, a few times a day. The above posture modifications and wall alignment exercises can help you on a path of stronger structural support. Try to use your better judgement when working on your laptop, and think of the long term repercussions of slouching in the moment, how the benefits of sitting upright will affect your wellbeing and mental health, and your productivity
Let's address the emotional components of carrying shoulder and neck pain, and go into some more techniques I use to keep on top of my neck and shoulder tension and pain.
The shoulders, as mentioned were to do with carrying too much. The weight of the world, pressure on you, holding up the pressures of the world, overwhelmed and on your own.
The pain and stiffness can be an emotional resistance, too many responsibilities you feel you must maintain, or the pressure that is put on you to "perform", to be a personality you can't live up to. "Is it possible for you to offload some of your responsibility, so you don't have to do all the weighlifting?" - Deb Shapiro
Creative energy flows from your limbs, arms, hands and expresses itself in what you do in the world. Your work, your life choices, relationships and feelings. When you are holding back and repressed your shoulders get tense and rigid, often affecting the neck in doing so.
What are you not expressing? What would you rather be doing or being? What are your real needs?
Tight shoulders can be a body reaction to having too much to do, which is why most people have tight shoulders and sore necks.
It goes together with the feeling of doing something you are not interested in and would rather be doing something else, I think this is a common issue in society today, with the pressures to work for pay, versus live our dreams, it causes repressed yearning and translates to stiff, tense, rigid shoulders.
It's important to reinforce positive mindset training, remind yourself you are in control and in charge of you self expression, daily affirmations and reminders to relax, release, and reprogram your mind, body and spirit.
Freedom, Expression and Release are good words to start building self repair sentences for shoulder and neck tension.
I am worthy of my dreams and goals
I accomplish anything I put my Focus on
I am Prepared to take advantage of opportunities presented to me
I am Confident in my abilities
I am Free
I am Enough
The Neck is slightly different then the shoulders although they build on each other as far as tension is related. We talked about the neck and posture, but how about the emotional ties with the neck and our energy body.
Our neck holds our throat and our communication center, our voice box and these all play into the sense of self expression and what we "swallow" as input and what we say outwardly through our mouth.
"The neck forms a bridge between thought and feelings, between the mind and the heart, as well as between the mind and the physical body. It is, therefore, a natural place for a bodymind split, where on part of your nature becomes isolates from the rest."
What tensions does your neck need to be released from ?
Do you need to listen to your feelings?
Do you need to speak your heart?
The neck holds the head upright so you can look forward and thereby giving you a sense of confidence, and dignity. A drooping head implies a hopeless, giving up attitude, it also can be adding to a feeling of less than enough and lesser then feelings of unworthy-ness.
Hold your head up high and even if you don't feel like it, see how that feeling of taking in the world can alter your self belief, and maybe trigger a greater viewpoint other then your own. Seeing around you can snap you out of a self involved narrow mindset that might be hindering your feelings of connection to the love and world around you.
Can you only see your point of view?
Are you feeling resistant towards a person or situation?
Are you feeling narrow minded in your attitudes?
Is someone being a literal "pain in the neck"?
Is someone asking too much of you?
Are you asking too much of yourself? Sometimes we put everything on ourselves when we feel need to live up to or be something for others, versus our own deep knowing and awareness that we are just as perfect, not doing that. It will come unravelling in one way or another when you are building resistance to your true essence, your shoving down of your authentic nature.
Lets look at some great movements you can do to build strength, flexibility and allow massive release in the neck and shoulders. I am extremely consistent in my practice of Yin Yoga and these are some of my Top Favorite shapes to help my arms, shoulders, neck and spine.
A Yin neck shape that I often use is crocodile, with your head resting in your hands. Lying on your tummy, rest your elbows on your mat head in your hands, as though you are looking up and watching t.v. This causes a nice extension to the neck which is a great counter shape to the forward flexion and weight bearing shape the spine is usually in through out the day.
This class will cover most of the photo references, always remember to use long slow breathes and move within your "goldilocks" zone, never pain, but enough of a depth within the posture to feel a sensation.
Remember as well, everything is always a result of our inner worlds, reflection is what this expression is teaching us. Our eyes reflect our minds.
"To be all that you are capable of being, you must recognize and address your fears. This, of course, isn't easy, and that's why you have people with so much busyness in their lives. All the yang type activity is a distraction from the reality of what people are truly dealing with. They would rather check out and numb out, than face their own uncomfortable thoughts and situations. " - Mythologist Joseph Campbell
Massage Therapy Benefits for Neck and Shoulder Relief
I can't finish this post without suggesting the benefits of an amazing massage, the relief of manual manipulation by a professional therapist are numerous. Massage will access the deep fascia of your body and with agreed pressure facilitate the movement of stagnant energy, and body fluids, allowing the release of built up toxicity in the form of tension, stiffness and tight tissue. Massage also helps break down the "knots" or blocked areas in the body thereby allowing a sense of balance as the flow of blood and hydration is free.
There can be soreness yes, after a deeper tissue massage, this can be alleviated with proper water intake, rest, and gentle movement. The co-ordination of breath awareness during and after a massage is vital to overall health.
It’s normal to feel sore after a massage. The technique carries blood and nutrients to your muscles while eliminating toxins. After stimulating muscles that you may not usually use, you might experience delayed onset muscle soreness. This is a physical response to the inflammation as your body heals.
This can happen if your muscles aren’t accustomed to massage or if you have lactic acidosis, which is a buildup of lactic acid in your body. In the same way that your body gets used to working out, your muscles need time to get used to being manipulated in certain ways.
You may experience inflammation and soreness in areas that need healing. If you have neck pain after a massage, for example, it can be a sign that you carry a lot of tension in that area. You may have limited flexibility and mobility in your neck due to working at a desk or bending forward repeatedly.
There are a number of incredible ways massage can help change your life, the human connection is so important, the care and nurturing is something human being thrive on, and it's my job to give the most and best I can during each and every individual treatment.