What a strange time it is.  More has opened up over the last week, and yet I’m feeling as if I’m still stuck at home more than I’d like to be. It’s like we’re busier but we’re not doing any more, does that make sense?! Over the next few weeks, these blogs will be focusing 10 minute Pilates stretches and on the need to remember your health as things get busier.  It can feel as if there is not enough time to do everything, but if you don’t prioritise your health, an increase in your workload and the stresses and strains of life will really take their toll. I promise you, just 10 minutes of Pilates stretches a day will give you a huge benefit. Some of the stretches can even be done at your desk.

With this in mind, I have developed a new FREE Facebook group to help busy women build mobility and freedom, and reduce pain from achy joints. Each day I post a short and sweet 10 minute Pilates stretches video; even the busiest person can enjoy improved mobility and less pain. Give it a go!

Shoulder and Neck stretches

So, the focus of this week’s videos is on shoulder and neck stretches.

It’s important to work these together, as you should not carry out neck stretches without first releasing the shoulders. 

Why is neck stiffness and pain so common?

Common reasons for neck pain:

  • actions as simple as looking down at your phone repeatedly, or holding your head in one position, this can affect posture long term
  • hours at computer and cellphone without movement
  • incorrect seating at a desk
  • reading (especially a good book that you are engrossed in!)
  • driving or sitting for extended periods
  • cycling, especially  if you are not properly positioned on your bike can lead to real neck tension
  • walking, especially on uneven terrain
  • sleeping incorrectly, in strange positions or with bad pillows
  • sewing, sketching, or writing
  • carrying a heavy shoulder bag
  • sports that use one side of the body such as tennis or golf
  • repetitive movements of the upper body such cooking/ stirring

Aim to increase the daily movement of your neck – making small changes to your movement can be a really simple way to start to improve mobility and reduce pain.  Try these gentle daily movements:

  • rotate the neck from side to side
  • bend the neck forward (neck flexion)
  • tip the head laterally to bring the ear to the shoulder
  • extend the neck to lift the chin upward

Note a normal range of motion is (in neck flexion) 40 to 80 degrees, without experiencing pain, discomfort, or resistance

Check out these short stretch videos, remember to do the shoulder one first, then the neck stretch.

Shoulder video

Neck stretch video

 Additional exercises

Neck flexion stretch

This exercise will help loosen your posterior neck muscles and reduce tightness.

  1. Rest your arms alongside your body and engage your core muscles to stabilise your spine.
  2. Draw your shoulder blades back and down.
  3. Slowly draw your chin in toward your chest.
  4. Hold for 15–30 seconds.
  5. Do 2–4 repetitions.

To deepen this stretch, place one hand behind your head with your fingertips at the base of your skull to help guide the movement.

Neck retraction

This exercise loosens up tight muscles, relieves pain, and reduces spinal pressure. Keep your eyes facing forward the whole time.

  • Place your fingers on your chin to push your head as far backward as possible.
  • Feel the stretch in the back of your neck.
  • Hold for 2–3 seconds before returning to neutral.

Do 3–4 sessions of 8–10 repetitions all at once or throughout the day.

Exercises for improving neck extension

The goal of these exercises is to lessen the intensity and severity of symptoms. These stretches relieve neck tension and pain, making them the perfect counterbalance to activities that require you to look down repeatedly.

Upward neck extensions

This exercise targets the front of your neck. You can do this exercise by moving with each breath instead of holding the position. Inhale as you look up and exhale as you return to the starting position.

  • Begin in a seated position.
  • Slowly bend your neck backward and gaze up toward the ceiling.
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.

Do 5 repetitions.

Bed hangs

Do this exercise when you first wake up or before bed to relieve pain and increase circulation.

  • Lie horizontally across the bed with your head, upper back, and shoulders near the edge.
  • Gently manoeuvre your body to allow your head to stretch along the side of the bed.
  • Reach your arms and hands overhead or place them alongside your body for more support.
  • Hold this position for at least 30 seconds.
  • Release by tucking your chin into your chest and using your arms to shift your body back onto the bed.

Do this exercise 1–3 times.

I really hope these 10 minute Pilates stretches have been helpful.  Do check back next week, when we will focus on Mid-back stretches and mobility. Don’t forget our FREE Facebook group or you can see an enormous library of videos and a host of helpful articles with our monthly Pilates Community membership for only £16.99 per month! 

Until next week, squeeze and breathe,

Love Hannah xx

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