Under Pressure - Upper Back and Neck
Okay, got off track there for a bit. As it happens, life beyond the internet called, and I had to put aside my blog posting to fulfill my primary role as mom.
I left off with some techniques for opening the chest area, which tends to get contracted as a result of our lifestyles... driving, computer usage, in general, sitting in chairs.
**(I'd like to sidetrack for just a moment to point out what may be obvious, but most chairs are really counterproductive to proper sitting. The addition of lumbar supports does little to offset this... what really needs to occur is the maintenance of a forward pelvic tilt when sitting.
Take a moment now, if you happen to be sitting, and bring your attention to your pelvis. Chances are, even with a lumbar support, your pelvis is tipped backward.. having the effect of rounding out the lower back, and drawing the shoulders forward. (Car seats are especially notorious for keeping us in this position. ) Now, try rolling your pelvis forward slightly and feel the difference in how your back feels and the chest opens up. Ideally, when sitting in a chair, you should be sitting close enough to the edge of the chairs so your feel are flat on the floor, and your "sit bones" are in contact with the chair. (To find your sit bones, place your hands under you butt.. you'll feel two bony bumps... when sitting properly, they will contact your chair: improperly, they'll curl under.) For many of us, this position may be difficult to sustain if we're used to sitting the other way. This is a result of the improper way of sitting creating long-term extension of the lower back muscles and weakened, contracted abdominal muscles. With time and attention, you will become more used to sitting in a more graceful, balanced way, and the muscles will become tonified.. especially if supported with exercise and bodywork.) Okay, back to the point.)**
The majority of physical issues I see involve tight and sore upper back, shoulders and neck. Very common areas of tension-holding. From a structural perspective you can see how improper posture, over time, creates a type of domino effect, resulting in the head and neck extending out beyond the central line of gravity, causing taut, extended muscles in these areas.
From a meridian perspective, remember how I mentioned the yang, active meridians which mostly begin on the fingers and branch off into the head and neck. Before these meridians fan out along the tops of shoulders, shoulder blades, and upper back, they converge at the neck, like several super-highways, or a large raging river shooting through a narrow canyon. So much energy in one place! Can't you just get a sense of potential traffic jams?
Let's look closer at the emotional representations of the meridians positioned here.
The Bladder: Actually two lines running in close parallel proximity to the center line of the head and down either side of the spine. Physically, it is connected to the central nervous system; emotionally, it deals with our will and impetus.
The Large Intestine: Runs from the thumbs, up the outer arms, over the tops of the shoulders, up the neck, ending at points next to the nostrils (also along the outer sides of the back) governs our ability to 'let go' of what no longer serves us.
The Gall Bladder: Creates almost a 'helmet' like pattern around the head and around the ears, also continuing over the tops of the shoulders, and down the sides of the body. The Gall Bladder is about how we use our energy, ability to see to each side, not just what's in front of us, and our decision-making.
The Triple Heater: Begins at point on the ring finger, up the center of the outer arms,Runs in smaller periphery around the ears, circling the shoulder blades, up the neck, and continuing in a smaller periphery around the ears. This meridian deals with our deep immunity, or psychic immunity even.. how we control our energetic boundaries. Also, deals with hearing and ability to listen.
The Small Intestine: Begins on the pinky, runs along the arms to a triangular formation of points spanning the shoulder blades, up the neck to the ear. Small Intestine has to do with our ability to assimilate.. to take in from the external world and make it (or not) a part of our own being.
So, as you can see, some pretty powerful stuff.
Some relief for traffic jams.
I think for best results, it would be helpful to precede with the upper chest opening techniques first.
** When feeling congested, contracted, brain-overloaded, begin with some light tapping (with loose fingers) all over the head. Massage the forehead. Find the bony part of the back of the skull, just where it connects to the neck, and use two fingers to rub vigorously. This area is like a trap for emotional energy and you'll be amazed how this motion alone will clear up your head and feelings of 'stuckness'. You can also massage the soft spots where the skull meets with the neck.. one in the center, and two in between the back neck muscles. Use deep thumb pressure to relax the neck muscles.
**In the center of the trapezius muscles that runs along the tops of the shoulders is a powerful point, (Gall Bladder 21) which, when pressed or massaged, releases the pent-up energy in the shoulders, sending it downward (For this reason, do NOT use this point if pregnant!) If you can get someone to stand behind you and apply pressure with forearms, even better. Pressure on this point, as well as the points at the base of the skull, can relieve headaches caused by tension.. in fact, you may feel sensations right into your head and eyes.
** Using the right hand for the left side of the neck, and the left hand for the right, you can roll you fingers into the muscles along the back of the neck. Gently stretch your neck from side to side.
** Scrunch your shoulders up close your ears while inhaling. On the exhale let them drop dramatically. Do this several times. Roll them around in a circular direction, backwards and forwards.
** And here's my all-time favorite secret which could possibly put me out of business. (I showed my husband this trick, and he asks me to work on him about half as much as he used to!)
This an inexpensive but highly effective substitute for a self-massage tool such as the Trigger Point Pro (tm). You know those niggly little pains you get just inside the shoulder blade, especially after sitting for awhile at the computer?
Get a super ball. You can probably use a tennis ball, but I think it might be too large and not strong enough. I use a hard rubber ball, slightly larger than a golf ball, which I then place in a knee high sock. Sling the sock over your shoulder, get the ball in between your body and a wall, and using your body weight, roll the ball around along the inside of your scapula. Or along your spine, lower back, butt.. anywhere you feel like you could use a massage but can't get one in that moment. You'll be amazed at the relief you can get this way, although you might get a few tears in the process... (hurts so good, ya know?)
Okay, well, that's all for today. Have fun with that.. feel free to report your results, thoughts, your own tricks and tips.