qi flow optimizer 918

Health is wealth. Even though life is busy, proactive self-care is crucial for staying at our optimal and decreasing our risk for pain and suffering (and remember–when we suffer, the ones who love us also suffer).

Today’s post covers some foundation-level exercises for maintaining healthy circulation in our neck.

Now, some of you might be thinking hm–well, Justin, my neck feels pretty good. I don’t have any problem moving around or anything. I don’t think I need to do any exercises. And I would be foolish to argue with you since you’re being perfectly honest.

But I will tell you this–the lady that had a stroke a few seconds ago? I bet she woke up this morning feeling pretty good. And the guy in the ER who suddenly had a heart attack right before lunch? Pretty sure he got out of bed planning to have a great day. The point is: very rarely do people wake up wanting to be up shit creek without a paddle.

When the neck is imbalanced, we can experience any one or combo of:

neck pain (yeah–crazy, I know)

headaches

shoulder pain/tightness

pain/tightness in the upper back

anxiety/irritability

decreased mental clarity

lower back pain

numbness/tingling in arms &/or hands

inability to express ourselves fully

(quick aside: acupuncture and the adjunct modalities of Traditional Oriental Medicine can be wonderfully effective and long-lasting medicine for the above symptoms; you can find my office number on the home page)

Even though all seems copacetic at the moment, the forces of imbalance can insidiously grow without us realizing it in any place we are not proactively caring for. It’s kinda like a neglected field on a homeowner’s property–in the absence of attention, weeds and animal pests may breed, multiply, and grow into a problem–all under the radar until the tipping point is reached.

The superior physician treats the disease before it has appeared. —Huangdi Neijing

In the spirit of self-love, then, let’s go to some exercises.

Exercise 1: Rotative Neck Stretches

Method: sitting or standing comfortably with the spine upright and free of tension, rotate the head circularly so you feel a gentle stretch in all neck muscles at each phase of movement. Minimize any movement from the shoulders downward.

Feeling: the mind is at ease; the breathing is deeper, unforced, and integrated (the energy of the breath fills the belly and the chest much like air fills a balloon); the movements are unhurried; the intent to move in a circle is clear. Let there be a gentle sense of the head hanging down toward the earth during the movement. As you practice, note where you sense areas of increased tightness or pain.

Image: the energy and intent are like a wheel gently turning: a smooth, unbroken flow.

Caution: discontinue if dizziness/vertigo occurs; do not practice with any active neck injury

Suggested dose: 4 circles in each direction constitute one set. Perform one to two sets daily. Let your inner knowing guide your practice; anywhere from 2 to 8 circles each direction can be beneficial.

Notes: consider combining with Half-Circle Eye Rolls, Neck Contractive Energizers (described below), and middle/lower back mobilizers for a foundation-level holistic spinal care program

Below is a [useful supplementary video].

Exercise 2: Contractive Energizer

There are two versions we’ll practice in this post. Version 1 focuses on the muscles below the ear; Version 2 focuses on the muscles in the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades

one: chin tuck, raise collarbone to mandible

Method, version 1: shrug the shoulders up with the idea of bringing the two collarbones directly upward to touch the jaw. Hold, maintaining a moderate engaging of the muscles, for 8-10 seconds, then relax.

Method, version 2: there are three components to this version, all of which are in play simultaneously: I.) the shoulders and elbows are drawn behind as if to bring the two shoulder blades to touch each other, II.) the head is tilted back and the throat gently stretched, III.) the shoulders are shrugged directly upward to activate the upper trapezius and posterior neck muscles. Hold, maintaining a moderate engaging of the muscles, for 8-10 seconds, then relax.

Feeling: there should be a clear sensation of the muscles of the neck engaging/contracting/gently tightening, similar to what one might feel in the muscles of the hand when wanting to squeeze all the water out of a wet sponge. In version 1, the main area of activation is the sides of the neck directly under the ear and jawbone angle (SCM/scalenes, longissimus cap-cerv, etc.); in version 2, focus is on the posterior neck (splenius cap-cerv, semispinalis cap-cerv, suboccipitals, etc.). It is neither too light nor too strong. Think energizing the muscles

Image: sluggish circulation invigorated by lively, spirited activation

Caution: discontinue if dizziness/vertigo occurs; do not practice with any active neck injury

Suggested dose: perform versions 1 and 2 together to create one set. One to two sets daily (but hey, if your intuition says do a third set, listen to it and see what happens).

Notes: see Notes for Rotative Neck Stretches above for suggested combinations

Enjoy the supplementary video below!

Copyright (c) 2018, Justin Jaucian

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