By Dennis Lewis
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, June/July 2004. Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
One of the main problems that occurs as we sit for long hours at our desks is our necks and shoulders become tight and locked into tension patterns that are very difficult to release. This strain restricts blood and nerve flow to our brain and nervous system and greatly contributes to constricted breathing and an overall sense of stress.
If occasional stretching or self-massage does not reduce or eliminate this tension, which it sometimes won’t, try this effective exercise.
Sit on a chair with your back upright but relaxed. Sense your breathing. Allow your belly to expand on the in-breath and retract on the out-breath. Take several breaths in this way. Now, with your elbows bent and upper arms against your chest, place the fingers of your right hand on the very top of your right shoulder and the fingers of your left hand on the very top of your left shoulder (Figure A).
As you inhale, let your head drop slowly while you draw your elbows upward in front of you as high as you comfortably can (Figure B). Then, as you exhale, circle your elbows slowly out to the sides (right elbow to the right side and left elbow to the left) and back down to the beginning position as you gradually lift your head upright (Figure C).
When you do these rotations, stay in touch with the movements also taking place in your belly, but do not force your inhalation or exhalation. Let them happen naturally, and be sure they are timed with the simultaneous movement of the head and elbows. Do the exercise slowly and evenly. You can perform this exercise as needed up to six repetitions, three times a day.