Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One Isometric Stretch to Improve Posture and Strength in the Chest, Neck and Shoulders

In my opinion the simple act of pushing the shoulders to the floor can remodel the upper body, making it easier to put on muscle and relieve tension and strain. We all walk around, sit, and sleep in our beds with raised shoulders. This is not the way our body was designed to hold itself and it introduces tension into the shoulder blades, neck and arms. This tension affects us in an adverse way psychologically. In Pilates they recommend pushing the ears away from the shoulders. In yoga it can be part of Tadasana or “mountain pose.” 

My favorite way to perform this isometric stretch is to lay on the floor:

1)      Lie down on the floor on your back and slightly tuck your shoulder blades underneath you.
2)      Put your arms at your sides, raise them to the level of your hips, and push down as if you were reaching for your knees.
3)      Do this for several seconds at a time breathing deeply.

It is really that simple. As long as you are breathing slowly and deeply your nervous system will start to embrace this posture. After a few sessions try walking around like this. With time you will notice that the muscles throughout your back and chest work together dynamically to push your shoulders down. It actually allows the chest and back to push against each other antagonistically. The more they can push against each other, the more they can coax each other to grow. Their synergistic relationship will even cause the base of the neck to become stronger and more healthy. This posture is the “core” of the upper body and it lends strength and poise to all upper body movements. It will help you grow stronger and help to improve your overall physique. 

Other poses that complement this one:

1)      Clasp the hands together behind the back, press the hands back and down and arch the chest upward and forward.
2)      Bend over reaching toward the ground with the hands clasped and arch the chest inward (backward, the other way) and hold.
3)      Simply raise the hands and arms above the head for a few minutes at a time while arching the chest inward, outward and laterally to each side.
4)      Stand straight with the elbows bent, press the elbows toward the ground and make small circles with the elbows as if you were flapping chicken wings.

I do these 4 exercises for prolonged periods while walking and together, over the course of a year they have changed my life.