How to get rid of your shoulder and neck tension
© Copyright 2022 Artwork by Cordi Neckermann
We all breathe that’s for sure. And it is also safe to say that most of us struggle with some form of tightness around the neck and shoulders because of misaligned posture. A healthy aligned posture with relaxed muscles around your neck and shoulders combined with a smile on your face is always in style and trending. It makes you shine in any outfit.
So how do we get rid of the tension in neck and shoulders, align our posture and get that confident look?
Short answer: simply breathe.
Taking a couple of full and deep breaths can help realign your posture naturally and activate some of those accessory muscles of respiration. These accessory muscles to the breathing process don’t usually get to come out and play when our breath is shallow and quick from rushing through the day.
Just taking three deep breaths can release tension from your shoulders and neck and realign your posture to look and feel more confident. Breathing, just like blinking happens unconsciously, without us thinking about it. But in 3 simple steps you can take control of your breathing pattern and use it to release tension from your muscles to simply slow down during your busy day.
Step 1: Sitting pretty
• Sit on a chair with your lower back touching the chair back
• Have both feet firmly placed on the floor
• Rest your hands on your knees
Step 2: Get fully inspired - Breathe in
Inspiration is the medical term for breathing in
• For a few breaths just follow along your inhalation and exhalation. Just paying attention to where in your body you feel it the most
• After a few breaths like this, on your next breath in, send it all the way down into your bell, then let it flow into your rib cage, expanding it into all four directions and lastly let the rest of your inhalation flow all the way up towards your collarbone. You can even squeeze the shoulder blades together gently.
Breathing deeply like this will activate all those accessory muscles to the breathing process. One very prominent one is the sternocleidomastoid muscle. It’s the big one running diagonally down the front of your neck. It doesn’t look too pretty when it’s activated but wait for the exhalation.
You will probably feel like an inflated balloon with your ribcage sticking forward and up. That’s great! When we exhale the ribcage will return to it’s natural position.
Step 3: An expiration date - Breathe out
Expiration is the medical term for breathing in
• The exhalation is the part where the first layers of tension in the neck and shoulders gets released
• While you let all the air gently flow out of your chest, ribs and from your belly, let your shoulders fall away from your ears. Down, down down… while the top of your head still reaches up.
Repeat these three steps as often as you like. Three times is the minimum to reach the first layer of tension stuck in the neck and shoulders.
Don’t always fully accessories
Obviously we can’t go through our day breathing deeply like this all the time. That would be really strange. Our diaphragm does a great job moving our breath through the body and it works best and most efficient when we keep our body in correct alignment. So, what comes first the alignment of the body or breathing deeply and aligning the body through the breath? It’s a chicken and egg problem.
Bottom line is the better our posture the easier our breath will flow and with our breath flowing easily we are more likely to feel relaxed and confident in our skin.
Learning good posture and breathing deeply takes time and practice. Yoga is an amazing tool to slowly strengthen all postural muscles and use the breath as a tool to become calmer and more relaxed. If you would like to dip your toes into yoga then come check out my happy morning yoga class here. It is perfect for beginners and focuses on alignment and breath in simple yoga poses.
If you are not the yoga type and need a little more action then don’t click away just yet. Another fantastic way to train those postural muscles is dancing. You can even have two left feet and still use dance to improve your poster and relieve stress and tension. Take a look at my dance fitness classes here. I teach live in the studio and live online. I will make you sweat with dancing to some hot Bollywood tunes and at end of class, when all those muscles are warmed up I will take you through some breath work to strengthen that mind body connection.
So, get the hottest spring look of all: Feeling more confident and relaxed in your own skin!
Enjoy the lovely spring sunshine and I hope to dance and/or yoga with you soon!
P.S. If all this breathing got your creative juices flowing and you feel like creating some art then come check out me drawing for beginners’ class on Skillshare here
Inhalation isn’t called inspiration for nothing :-)