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Upper Body

dreamstime_xxl_137372664.jpg Sossusvlei
The neck can be delicate.  It needs balance, so any of the general balance practices are helpful, as well as posture and alignment.  The neck also needs ease, which can be a challenge when things hurt and are tired.  Every effort you can make for neck comfort is worth doing. Supporting your neck with a rolled towel, small pillows, soft balls  and such. The neck also needs the head to be light, in all ways, letting the head feel suspended from above.  The front of the neck carries at least half the tension and can be more accessible.  

Micro-movements for Your Neck

  • Lay on your back with your knees supported

  • Let your neck be supported by the floor or by a folded blanket or towel - something flat that will let your head roll

  • Slowly slowly let your head start to roll to one side

  • Slow down so the body can work out the glitches

  • Feel into the rusty spots

  • Let your body relax

  • Feel the relief and let that relaxation ripple into the rest of you


Crown of the Head to the Center of the Earth

  • Lean over onto a couch, or block or ball.  This will give you a feeling of stability.  You can use the floor too.

  • Let you neck hang long

  • Feel gravity helping you

  • Let your hips reach high and your back get long as well

Side-lying Neck Lengthening
  • Lay on your side
  • With the height of your pillow in good line with your spine - not too high, and not too low
  • Tuck your knees into a comfortable fetal position, hands in prayer position
  • Tuck your chin allowing the head to rotate, lengthening the neck
  • Let the jaw relax
  • Place special attention to the sensations at the base of the skull
  • Make your movements small, giving time and room for micro-adjustments.
  • This is good to do before falling asleep
Occipital Alignment
  • sit or stand comfortably upright
  • feel for the alignment where your head can balance the most easily
  • then feel even closer for where it has the feeling it could float, easily, like a small boat on a gentle lake
  • check that spot by moving off of it and noticing how the floating stops
Passive  Stretch for the Upper Chest
  • a ball that compresses easily is best.  You can use a squishy ball, or partially deflate a ball too.  It should be soft so you can relax.
  • place the ball right along the vertebrae in the spot that feels best
  • the practice is to lay there and rest, letting the chest open, for a few minutes
  • roll to the side to come out
  • this will stretch the ligament that runs along the front of the vertebrae, and will help the neck find alignment if you have been too hunched over
Smile, yes, do it, Smile
  • This exercise requires trying it.
  • Just try it, ... smile..., even for 5 seconds if you doubt this.
  • 5 seconds: smile and juggle and see what happens.
  • Then keep smiling and juggling.
  • It won't make your problems go away, but it will change how you feel
Forehead Hot Compress
Materials:  2 washcloths, 2 towels, 1 wash basin, 1 tea kettle
After arranging everything,
  • Lay flat on your back, with a towel neck roll, and a knee pillow
  • Your friend kneels by your head, and places a wet, wrung-out, warm washcloth over your forehead, eyes, and nose bridge.  (*you can do this yourself too, but you have to sit-up and exchange the washcloths)
  • When it cools, your friend gets a fresh washcloth from the basin, and exchanges them.
  • As the water in the basin cools, dollop in water from the tea kettle to keep it warm
  • Continue replacing warm washcloths for a little while.  Don't let your skin get too hot.
  • This can be helpful if you have a sinus headache
Shoulder injuries, tend to cause shortened muscles at the front, making the shoulder "collapse" forward and inward.  When that happens it is hard to move the arm well.  You can notice this by simply "hunching over" and then trying to raise your arm out to the side - it's very hard.   A fundamental part of ensuring good recovery from shoulder pain requires good stabilization of the shoulder blade. That is, the flat bone of the shoulder blade has to be nicely retracted, anchoring downward and in - towards the low back.  It naturally involves good head alignment and chest lifting and a sense of the shoulder blade being comfortably strong.
Modifications and Adaptations
  • Shoulder injuries most often limit our ability to reach overhead.
  • If you can't reach overhead, modify and adapt your movements to accommodate what you can do, and gradually seek to gain more range.
  • When you are able to reach further, more practices become available.
  • If something hurts, it is not good to do it.  Simply stop, review, make accommodations, and proceed slowly.
  • Try not to overwork it.
Arm Swing and Underhand Toss
  • The practice is to get a smooth, loose, underhand swing.
  • Incorporate posture, then ease at the shoulder, and release through the arm and wrist.
  • Feel for an open chest, a stable shoulder, and a graceful launch of the ball.
  • Try easy tosses where the ball barely leaves your hand.
  • Remember this while walking as well.  The arms loose and able to swing.
  • Note everything that has to let go.
Overhand Catch
  • If you can't reach overhead, catch it where you can.
  • If you can reach overhead, let yourself arch back to find the ball.
  • Let your shoulder drop down and back to provide a good base for the ball to move into.
  • Coordinate your sight, and align yourself underneath.
  • When the ball lands in your hand, let the impact anchor your shoulder.  Let the feeling reverberate through your body giving it good sensory input.
Chest Lift
  • If you have trouble moving your arms overhead, this practice may not be possible until you heal more.  When you can, it will be invaluable.
  • You want to use a ball that is weighted such that it gives you a challenge, but not so heavy that it compromises your posture.
  • Hanging the ball behind your head places the shoulder blades in a great position to work from.
  • Lift the chest and collar bones, letting the shoulder blades slide further down your back.
The Classic Pick-Me Up
  • Pick a ball that is light enough to hold overhead, but heavy enough to keep it interesting.
  • Lift the heavy ball, lift yourself!
Carry the Hoop
  • Use the hoop to work your arms around.
  • A hula-hoop works, but a heavier hoop can be better as you can push and pull your arms around.  (see Suggestions on Toys for more detail)
  • Reach into the areas that are challenging for you.
  • Relax when you reach a barrier.
  • Pause for the opening and when you feel it ease into it.
  • Let your body help you.
  • Keep your posture.
Overhead Ring Play
  • If you have shoulder trouble such that you can't raise your arm so much, just take it the the level you can.  If you can, try using your other shoulder to help lift the troubled side.
  • You'll need a stronger, smaller ring than a hula-hoop.
  • Use both hands in opposition to push and pull each side into improved range and strength.
  • Work your strengths and weakness.
  • Vary the height and position of the ring.
  • Let your stronger side lift and move the other side.
  • Use resistance, and coordination.
Door Jam Stretch
  • Stand in a doorway.
  • Reach your arm out to the side and anchor your arm on the door-jam.
  • Tuck your shoulder blade down.
  • Lean forward with your body, giving the front of your chest and shoulder a gentle stretch.
  • Turn your head away from the shoulder and accentuate the stretch at the front of the chest.
Push Yourself Strong
  • Get your stretch cords out and attach them into the door jam.
  • Push out against resistance.
  • You can't help but feel more powerful.
  • Work it out!
Arms Out and Up
  • Stand on the middle of your stretchy elastic band.
  • Gather the ends so you have some resistance.
  • Lift your arms out to the sides.
  • As your arms go up, let your shoulder blades anchor down.
  • Get you mid-back strong.
Arms Straight Up
  • Stand on the middle of your stretchy elastic cord.
  • Gather the ends of the cord in each hand.
  • Punch your hands up, along the side and front of your body.
  • The shoulder blades anchor down as the arms go up.
Row Your Shoulders Back
  • Sit on the floor, legs long.
  • Drape the stretchy cord around your feet.
  • Gather each end of the cord with each hand.
  • Pull back, letting the resistance anchor your shoulder blade.
Behind the Back Throw
  • This throw will really call on your posture cooperating with you.
  • Make sure your  arm starts in back, dangling.
  • Work on small motions that yield a nice throw.
  • Catch it around the front.
Stand in Triumph
  • Take the opportunity whenever you can.
  • Take the position physically, for practice, and feeling.
  • You have triumphed in so many ways.
  • And besides: you got a bit further on the trick!
Hands Up Overhead
  • Stretch your arms and chest up
  • You can try interlacing your hands, palms to the sky
  • Let the front and sides of the chest open
  • Lean a bit different ways to accentuate the feeling
  • Just move how you can, little by little, breathe
Chest Opening with the Foam Roller
  (white, soft, 36" length, 6" diameter - see suggestions on toys)
To lay on it lengthwise, - start by:
  • Sit at the very end of the roller
  • Curl yourself down onto the roller, using your arms and legs to balance
  • On your back - sacrum at one end, and skull at the other
  • Knees are bent, feet flat, balancing
  • Arms can stretch out to the sides.  Rest them on pillows as you need, wriggle around, open the chest
  • Let the back of your head rest on the roller
  • Balance and play with moving your chest and arms
  • To get off the roller: simply roll off easy to one side.  Stay on your back but just lean a bit to slide off.  The roller will roll out from under you so you stay on your back.  Lay there a bit, pause to "feel the flat".  It is in this pause that the body "re-orients" to its new alignment.
Open Your Palm Chakras
  • Basically, any time, ... instead of thinking to spread your fingers - try spreading your palms
  • Let your wrist and thumb open out too
Floating Hands
  • you can float them in a bath, a pool, or hot-tub
  • and you can float them in your imagination
  • let them get lighter and softer
Finger Flick the Ball
  • Place the ball between two fingers
  • Practice rolling the ball up and down the length of your fingers
  • Let yourself practice sensation and control
  • Then flick the ball up and catch it with those fingers, - easy toss
  • Play with spinning the ball
  • Try between different fingers
Wrist Shake-Out
  • Dangle your arms and shake them
  • Let small movements at the upper arms and shoulders ripple out to the fingers, like a little whip
  • Relax and shake your hands loose
  • Try having your arms in different positions, overhead too!
Keep Your Hands Warm
  • Connect your palms and rub them together.
  • Open your fingers and let them be straight and a bit stiff.
  • As your palms rub your fingers strike.
  • If your hands are too cold, this may too painful and you may need to start with warming your hands by getting to a warmer place.
These are called Baoding Balls; named for the city in China where they originated.  They are placed in the hands and rolled about.  They come in many sizes and materials.  These are hollow and have a pleasant chime.  Baoding Balls are known as a meditation aid, but their health benefits are also well described.  They are known to enhance general health by stimulating the acupressure points in the hands, and to enhance hand health by gaining increased flexibility and coordination.  I like them because they spread the palm, and are peaceful to use.  I recommend starting to use them lying down, where if they roll out of your hands they won't fall.  Move them about your hands gently, softy, and let them affect your hands, easily.  You can add balls as you wish.  You can also rest the back of your forearms on them while laying on a soft surface, serving as a trigger point release method.
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