Search This Blog


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Releasing Neck Tension (and Minimizing the Dreaded "Dowager's Hump")

Looking Younger - by Releasing Neck Tension

One of my dear friends exercises regularly. I see her often getting up in the morning, putting together a blender-full of a healthy protein and fruit smoothie, and heading out to the gym before she goes to work each day. She's resumed her "healthy lifestyle," and she's getting fitter and trimmer. Nevertheless, I keep seeing a persistent hunch-over in her shoulders and neck. It's the dreaded "dowager's hump" - and it has nothing to do with exercise!

Most of us have desk jobs. Between sitting at our desks, sitting in the car (with our shoulders brought forward as we grasp the wheel), and then sitting at home in the evenings, we are all too often in a posture that tightens our neck and hunches our shoulders forward. Even in our "leisure moments," we're reinforcing this posture. (Feel the posture that you're in while watching TV, doing texts and emails, and other digitally-based activities.)

One of the most notable signs of aging is our posture. Actually, it's a combination of posture and muscular/joint stiffness. "Limberness" is a sign of youth. Being hunched over, with a tight, drawn in neck, with rounded shoulders is a sign of both stress and aging. And when we get "fixated" in this kind of posture, we start looking like a turtle - one that is very reluctantly sticking its head out of its shell! That's the "dowager's hump" stage.

Surprisingly, not many fitness coaches and anti-aging gurus focus on this. But a tight neck, and tight shoulders, are not only absolute give-aways about aging, they also feel awful! It's hard to feel vigorous, lighthearted, and happy when our posture says that we're hunching over to avoide the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"!

Perhaps even more surprisingly, the key to unlocking neck and shoulder tension (and releasing a "dowager's hump") starts not at our neck, but in our hips, pelvis, and lower back. As we release these areas, we begin to "mobilize" our spine. Once we do that, we can start releasing tension up and down our spines - reaching up into our neck. This is how we create a youthful, vibrant body!

I've just come back from a week at a client site. There were task-filled days, often be-bopping from one place to another, with the "to-do list" always on my mind. While I could do some stretch-outs, some yoga, and some walking while at my client's, it just wasn't ideal for my early-morning "sun salutation" yoga workout. And now, returning to home base, in the midst of unpacking and taking care of everyone's physical (and emotional) needs, I'm noticing a tight neck. And also, a tight back, and a very tight lower back and hip area. The secret? A combination of yoga and "belly dance basics" - a series of stretching and releasing exercises that are actually best done in bed, or on a soft and yielding surface. I've been combining that with deliberate breathing, opening up my diaphragms. And without even getting to my neck area, I'm already getting some release.

Our yoga practice doesn't have to be fancy, and we don't need to do lots of advanced poses. But just getting some "downward dog" and "sun salutations" in helps tremendously to release tension in our hips, lower back, and sacral area. And all of this is necessary before any form of dance can begin.

No comments: