Tight shoulders, neck and upper back muscles are common complaints amongst our clientele; and sometimes, massage, trigger point therapy and even fascial release are not enough to address the underlying issue.
An option that is often overlooked when addressing tight muscles and limited movement is finding a solution from the inside. Getting a sense of (or listening to) one's organs-like the lungs, for example-can actually provide an internal sense of support overtime that may help alleviate the external manifestation of stress and poor postural habits.
Step 1: Create an image in your mind.
This can be done in many ways, but one of the methods with which you may be most easily able to connect with this idea is by imagining the physical quality of the lungs as spongy or elastic (which they are). If at first you are not able to "feel" their sponginess or elasticity, then create the image or sensation in your mind.
When cultivating a practice of sensing and awareness, sometimes, one has to imagine something before being able to experience it. Using the mind to visualize and suspend disbelief is useful when connecting to different parts of the body and is the reason we hear so many metaphors in yoga. (Side note: This is also why metaphors should be accurate, so that the relationship they help you to establish with the body is healthy and beneficial. Misinformation can lead to injury.)
Step 2: Connect with this visual.
Deeply connecting with and concentrating on the fluid quality of their movement can help the lungs to perform their function uninhibited by any external factors like stress. It can also allow for a relaxed and easy rhythm when breathing (a helpful tip for anyone struggling with a breathing disorder).
Once the notion of fluid and easy breathing is established, you may be less likely to overuse the accessory breathing muscles, like the sternocleidomastoids. Giving over the majority of the breathing work to the lungs and diaphragm allows these accessory muscles to relax. Think of this as another form of "core support," one that is more fundamental than the "typical" core, made up of your abdominal.
Step 3: Envision yourself letting go of tension.
That support of the lungs and diaphragm moving fluidly without having to exert effort starts to give the body a physiological message that control over the breath is no longer necessary. Now, other muscles may begin to release; the jaw can relax and the shoulder girdle gently settles upon the ribs going along for the ride, rising on the inhale and lowering on the exhale passively.
A consistent practice like this can over time lead one to find a decrease in the muscular tension mentioned before and an increase in their available range of motion. There are many different ways to approach the organs for this kind of internal support that result in an overall sense of ease. If the above example does not resonate with you, don't worry; you can find another way. Simply book an appointment with a movement educator who can help you to connect with your inner-self. You'll be surprised at how good it can feel!
To read Melissa's article in its entirety, click here!