Say hello to your shoulders!


Each month at Moving Life Studio there is a new focus for the Pilates classes.

For April we have been working on THE UPPER GIRDLE: shoulders and upper back.

Do you experience shoulder or neck pain or stiffness? Having had my share of shoulder injuries when I did gymnastics and trampolining, I’ve recently been experiencing stiff, sore shoulder joints.  It’s given me a good opportunity to explore what makes them feel and function better….and it is not pulling them down as I’ve so often heard and tried.

What I realise is that I don’t take my arms above my head very much;  I don’t climb. I don’t need to pull myself up.  Like a lot of you, my movement ‘vocabulary is shrinking. We sit too much, flexed forward, and we rarely reach our arms up or out.  This can lead to a sunken chest, rounded back, shoulders pulled forward and weak back muscles. The back no longer supports the arms so they hang off the neck causing strain and pain.

A simple technique to alleviate shoulder and neck pain is to stand and reach your arms up or place them on your head. Get to feel your back;  stand against the wall and imagine you are scratching an itch with your shoulder blades…no expensive gimmicky equipment is needed!  And my favourite upper body release is lying on a foam roller with my arms open, hands resting on the floor..and Breathing!  To strengthen,  I do Pilates exercises and Nia, focusing on the upper back and shoulders and the back of the arms. My aim is to create mobility in the joints, the balance between flexibility and strength.

Focusing on the front of the body, I  find lifting my sternum and imagining my collarbones floating wide and  held up by balloons works ( thanks to Eric Franklin for that image!)

I take a holistic approach to healing so I often have Bowen Therapy or a massage and then explore what emotions could be contributing to having sore shoulders.   Think how you feel when you are hunched; it’s a challenge to smile and be happy when you are hunched with a sunken chest. Do you feel like you have ‘The weight of the world on your shoulders? When you feel good and confident it shows in your posture; I know when I teach something that I love and feel confident about, I stand taller and my front body  ‘opens out’. I breathe with ease.

How can you get more upper body movement into your day?  Here are some ideas:

  • Hang on burglar bars ( South African theme here!) without letting your shoulders hug your ears
  • Reaching to touch the top of the door frame when you go through a door
  • Placing things on high shelves
  • Push down on a counter or table to lift yourself
  • Hang out washing
  • And crawling…great natural, functional movement
  • Finally, The ‘Kate Winslet’…if you’ve seen the film Titanic you’ll know it !

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