pec minor

DIY Friday: Upper Back and Shoulders Part 1

diyfriday (2)

*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

4927974025_116c045142_bI recently asked the Facebook tribe what they wanted me to give them help on in this week's DIY Friday and there was a whole lotta talk of shoulders and the upper back! I can't exactly say I'm surprised. We live in a culture that puts an awful lot of demand here in ways that our bodies are not well designed for. All of that looking at screens, sitting, and typing causes upper back, neck, and shoulder pain that our hunter gatherer ancestors were not having to deal with. I used to joke that the first person who came into my Rolfing® practice with no tension pattern in their upper trapezius would win a treasure chest of prizes. I have not given out any prizes. Call me a defeatist, but I have not even gone shopping for treasure chests. Ok partly that's just the practicality of having a hard time finding stores that carry treasure chests...

But in the hopes that I'll be handing out prizes for supple upper trapezius muscles soon, here's part 1 of a 2 part post on some of the most crucial alignment issues that we face in our shoulders and upper back, as well as some very juicy self massage strategies that are likely to have you shouting, "Hallelujiah!"

Before we bust out the therapy balls, here's a video from me ranting about one of my most despised hall of shame alignment cues. You've all heard it before, "Pull your shoulders back." Argh! To see how this cue may be causing a significant increase in your upper back pain and why I would get so complain-y about something so seemingly innocuous, give it a watch:

And now, finally, the moment you've all been waiting for. Knowing how to work on that cranky tissue on your own. First, to deal with the internal rotation, shoulders creeping up and forward thing that I describe in the video, here's a quickie therapy ball strategy to unglue your pec minor muscle, one of the main culprits in forward rounded shoulders (it's an oldie from before FFF):

Last but very, very much not least, this is the good stuff that you're wanting to get into at the end of every workday. Jill Miller shows you her Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball strategies for getting at the upper trapezius, supraspinatus, and rhomboids. Heavenly! This is a powerful 4 minutes and 55 seconds everyone. It might just change your life (as it does mine at the end of every Rolfing or writing day).

 

*Jill and I are both using the original sized therapy balls in these videos, and they can be found here

photo by Sam MacKenzie

 

DIY Friday: Posture

diyfriday (2)*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

2499047949_47fb90e481_zI predict that FFF will ultimately have somewhere approximating 63 gajillion posts on posture. That would make this the first of them! Oh, posture. Such an overused and misunderstood word. Quick! Have good posture! Did you just yank your spine up straight, tuck your butt under, and shove your shoulders back while puffing up your chest? Well stop it. Stop it I say! That sh*t is exhausting and will only sow the seeds of chronic pain. Like I said, 63 gajillion posts coming your way over the years on posture, so I’ll get into the nuance of that more later but for now I need you to trust me on 2 things:

1) “Good” posture should be effortless. It should involve standing in a way that allows you all the glorious support you are designed with so that you can feel that sense of poise when upright without efforting or gripping your way through it. Forget anything you ever learned about posture in ballet class or the military. Or from your harping parents. Please.

2) Today’s 3 DIY posts have been chosen because they will help you to experience and attain that effortless sense of poise. Have fun!

  • First up, yep, this is a re-post of yours truly on the Yoga Tune Up® blog. I am slightly obsessed with getting people to stop shoving/pinning/pulling their shoulders back (it causes so much unnecessary pain!), so a few months back I wrote this article. It also has a video on how you can release your own pec minor, the main culprit in forward shoulder position, using therapy balls. If you are therapy ball-less at home you can use a tennis ball or a rubber dog ball. Lacrosse balls, baseballs, and softballs (or anything of this consistency) are too hard in this area. This is one of my favorite end of the workday things to do: When your pec minor becomes a major pain.
  • Second, Whole Living just posted this fascia focused workout creator by Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune Up (and, full disclosure, my teacher). While they don’t talk about this workout specifically as a posture improver, it really does hit so many of the key areas that need to be addressed in order for you to have a shot at experiencing ease in your body. Give them a try, they’re harder than they look! And my one caveat is to be super, duper, uber mindful when you do any of these movements (especially Matador Arm Circles and Sliding Chest Extension) to turn off your upper trapezius! It’s the part of your upper back/shoulder that you’re always groaning about at the end of the day, and it is, if you’re like most people, hyperactive. You will need to keep telling yourself to let that area soften as you go through the movements in order to open up your posture instead of just reinforcing old habits: Fascia Focused Workout
  • Lastly, the woman who literally wrote the book on posture, Mary Bond, has this great post on how spatial awareness/support can affect your posture. It might sound kooky, but try it! Go for a short walk seeing primarily with your peripheral vision. Or try sitting in your work chair while being aware of the space above your head and behind you (and try to avoid the temptation to pull yourself up when you notice the space above you). It can be powerful stuff! Spatial Support for Your Posture. Oh and that book I mentioned is The New Rules of Posture.

Now get out there and strut your effortlessly sassy pants stuff!