Thursday, July 19, 2012

Relieving Upper Back Tension

I spend the large majority of my day hunched. At a computer, over papers, reading a book... whatever it is, I'm probably hunching.  It's not that I wasn't taught good posture - I was, and I tend to have it when I'm standing - it's that I'm tall and my desk is inevitably too low.  Or it's that when I'm deeply focused, I tend to lean into what I'm doing. 

Weight lifting on already tight shoulders and upper back only exacerbates it.  Now, I have two kinds of pain: the good, muscle-building kind and the obnoxious, headache-causing hunching kind.  As a result, I've spent a lot of time investigating good stretches for the upper back, since I tend to do my stress-relief on a budget. Massages are expensive, you know.

The one stretch I have found works consistently and immediately is a sort of yoga/desk-stretch hybrid.  It's essentially the upper half of eagle pose.  Here's how to do it.

First, as always, consult a doctor before self-medicating - even with stretches!

Sit up straight in your chair, planting your feet firmly on the floor, or kneel on the floor with your weight evenly distributed.  Stretch both arms out on front of you, at shoulder height, then cross your arms - right over left. Bend your elbows to a ninety degree angle and touch your hands together, palm-to-palm, with your arms wrapped around each other. 

Feel like a pretzel yet?  Good.  Now stretch your arms straight up, still in eagle pose, and follow your hands with your eyes so your neck is elongated.  Breathe deeply.

Now bring your elbows straight down (following your hands with your eyes still) until they touch your navel, rounding your shoulders.  You should feel a nice, loosening stretch in your upper back.  Breathe deeply here for a moment. Now repeat, with the left arm crossed over the right.

Enjoy your newly-tension-free shoulders!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rest Days for Your Mind

I recently had an experience that reminded me of the importance of a little self-pampering.  You can find the story here, but here’s the relevant part: a few days house-sitting that were supposed to be days of solitude turned into chat-fests and non-stop mental stimulation.  Now, I am both extremely introverted and highly sensitive.  My brain gets overloaded really quickly with stimuli – from conversation to noise to even smells.  For four straight days, I was interrupted constantly both by the dog at this house and by their cleaning lady, and by the end of it, I felt so incredibly haggard.

My brain ceased to function normally.  The connections it normally makes between thoughts were flickering out before they were even fully-formed.  I had a headache for a solid day afterwards.