I am delighted and really happy to let you know that next year, I will be co-hosting (alongside my colleague Aileen Orr) world renowned Yoga teacher Donna Farhi here in Edinburgh for a five day workshop. In preparation for her visit, what hasn’t been so delightful is spending a lot of time on the computer getting all the information up on my website (definitely not my favourite thing).
My guess is that very few of us are immune to spending some portion of our day in front of a computer, tablet or smart phone. And one of the things I learned during this period is that your habits (which you are not necessarily aware of) can really show up when you get caught up in your task and engrossed by what’s on your screen. For me, I started to develop a neck and shoulder pain on my left side – which I did not associate initially with being on my computer a lot.
What Was Going On?
I was surprised and baffled, especially as I have a daily Somatic & Yoga practice which is very much focused on experiencing the body from the inside and leaves me feeling incredibly relaxed in my body. What was going on? I knew that there must be something I was doing during my day to create this tension and soreness in my shoulder.
So, what did I discover? Well, I found out that when I sit for long periods at a computer I have a tendency to lean into my left hip (this contracts my left side waist muscles), which in turn draws my left shoulder down. Until that moment, I had no idea that this was my pattern.
You Get Really Good At What You Practice
So whilst I felt the pain in the left shoulder and neck, it was actually due to a full body pattern of muscular contraction that involved the muscles at the centre of the body (in Somatics this particular pattern is known as the Trauma Reflex which I’ll talk about more in another post) and in this instance, I knew I needed to release my tight left side waist muscles first.
Thankfully, I know how to do this through Somatics and it’s what we will be exploring in my upcoming Freeing The Neck & Shoulders Workshop – especially the connection of the neck & shoulders to the entire spine. It will be wonderful for you if you work at a computer or spend a lot of time driving or just generally have chronic muscle tension in this area.
Here is a wonderful Somatic movement demonstrated by my teacher Martha Peterson that you can explore now.
A Somatic Exercise To Release The Neck & Shoulders
As well as being more mindful of how I’m sitting at my computer, I’ve also learnt to take more regular breaks as I know that when I get involved in what I’m doing, I’ll have a tendency to go back into my habits. We were designed to move, so I make sure I get up and move about, I pandiculate my muscles to release tension and bring them back under control of my brain.
Over To You
Are you aware of what your habits are when you sit at your computer? Do you tend to arch your back and pull your shoulders back – tightening all your back muscles? Or do you hunch forward, rounding your shoulders in a slumped position – tightening the chest and abdominal muscles? Or maybe you’re like me and lean and tilt into one hip? Please share what you’ve discovered in the comments below and anything that you’ve found helpful for you.
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Photo Credit: Flickr
Interesting post. I can so relate to this, Jahna.
I need you to be my personal somatics coach 🙂
Hey Lorraine, that is a great idea! Even though we don’t live close, we can arrange a personal Somatics coaching session via Skype. It’ll be fun 🙂
Sounds good to me:)
BTW your website looks great.
Wonderful, get in touch with me via email and we’ll arrange a suitable time. Thanks for the comment about the website 🙂
Jahna, thank you very much for that great ‘pulling rope’ exercise—just what I needed after long driving hours up North. Feeling the effects straightaway [eye-opener how stiff I am]. Best, Patricia
You’re more than welcome Patricia, glad you found it helpful. Driving long hours can be tough on the body, so it’s great to know there are some simple, gentle Somatic Movements you can do to release any accumulated tension and stiffness.
I get what you are intending to do.. but this might actually worsen some people. I had flared up pain, because this exercise deeply contracts the pectoralis minor, which overwhelms the serratus & also counteracts the traps and rhomboids. Instead, it might actually help to lie on the stomach and do the exercise the other way. That way, the pec minor is relatively switched off..
akash, without being able to observe how you did the movement, here are a few suggestions I have. Firstly, as with all Hanna Somatic movements you want to go gently, slowly, mindfully and always stay within your own comfort range. “Less is more” is definitely the motto here as it is very easy to over effort especially in the beginning. So this may mean that your range of motion when you reach the arm up is small, this is fine as the point is to sense what happens in your shoulders as you reach and not how far you go. For example, can you feel the shoulder blade moving away from the spine as you reach the arm up? Can you feel the rib cage moving? Are you letting the neck go along for the ride? There is a connection between the hand, arm, shoulder, shoulder blade and rib cage! If you do this movement gently, even luxuriosly the muscles of your body will be working synergistically together. For example, as you reach the arm up – the chest muscles (pectoralis major in particular) contract as the rhomboids release away from the spine. If you’re not feeling this, then I’d suggest exploring the basic Hanna Somatic movements first that help to release the centre of the body starting with Arch & Flatten. Releasing the centre of the body will allow the periphery to release. Finally, I think it can really help to understand how Hanna Somatic Exercises work – if you have chronically tight muscles you actually want to contract them a little more first before slowing releasing and lengthening them. Why? Because this will help your brain and nervous system (the command centre of your muscles) begin to consciously feel the muscle contraction so it can begin to take take back voluntary control of the muscle. Your muscles will then be able to release and lengthen to their natural length without force or stretching