This seems appropriate today
I'm hoping that we're all snuggled up under a blanket with hot cocoa right now. I know we don't want to think about shoveling the snow later. But... How should one shovel snow in order to lessen the strain on the body?
Since the snow isn't nice enough to come up to our arm level, we need to bend down to shovel it. Herein lies the key to correct shoveling posture. Do we bend at the hip or at the knee? Which one of these pictures looks more correct?
If you said the second, you're right! Although it's easier to bend over from the hip and pick up the shovel with our arms and shoulders, it puts excess strain on the low back, neck and arms. In the second picture, however, essentially performing a squat motion is going to cause the least strain on the body. The knees bend, the shoulders come down directly over the hips and the rear is dropped behind. The arms are kept at a close range to the chest, keeping pressure off the upper arm muscles and engaging the core. Then lift up from the legs and glutes, pushing with force from the core to move the shoveled snow.
Sounds easy, right? Well anyone who's ever squatted with weight will tell you it's not. :) The good news is, with a bit of practice, you'll find that shoveling can be an exercise for your glutes, quads and abs, NOT your lower back and upper arms, which shouldn't be throwing the weight of a shovel-full of snow anyway. Want some good news? Snow shoveling can burn around 350 calories per hour – so I think that's an excuse for an extra hot chocolate as a completion reward!
If you find that your posture is perfect when shoveling, and your muscles still ache, you're not the only one. That's the perfect time to come in for a session – massage therapy can ease muscle pain and increase recovery time. I'll see you in my Westport office!
Use these easy and elegant movements to stretch the entire front and back of the legs.
I recently attended an all-day seminar. While the subject matter was completely worthwhile, and the day was overall enjoyable, my legs felt like jello by the time I drove home. When sitting for a long time, circulation and muscle movement are severely diminished. These two simple ballet movements stretch both the front and back of the legs, improving muscle function and circulation and lessening pain. The next time you find yourself sitting for a long time, give them a try!
“Plie” literally means “bent”, which describes a slow and continuous bending of the knees. When done slowly, this movement will stretch the front of the legs and hips. If you're interested in strengthening these areas, 3 sets of 8 deep plies will certainly have your thighs burning!
Begin with your feet hip width apart, toes turned out slightly from the hip (rather than from the knee).
Step out a few more inches so your feet are wider than the hips, and gently bend the knees, lowering your body softly. You can certainly stop here and feel a bit of a stretch, but go on to the next step for more of a challenge.
With your weight grounded evenly in your feet, heels flat, lower your body and bend the knees further, so that your upper legs are parallel to the floor. Don't bend your knees beyond your toes. Slowly straighten the knees back up to standing. This is one repetition. Repeat five times for a set.
“Releve” means “raised,” describing the action of raising the body to stand on the toes, rather than the soles of the feet. This will activate the calf muscles, as well as the hamstrings and gluteal group. It also stretches multiple muscles in the foot.
Begin standing up straight, with arms either at your sides or stretched out for balance. Turn the toes out gently from the hip (rather than from the knee). Take a breath and center yourself, activating your core muscles and straightening your spine.
Slowly move to elevate the heels, standing on the balls of your feet. If you notice yourself teetering a little from side to side, this is normal - take a moment to steady yourself, and pay attention to the individual muscles in your toes and feet. Slowly lower back to the soles of your feet. Repeat five times for a set.
My favorite combination of these two positions is to move from a light releve into a slight plie with the heels together. This stretches the entire back of the leg, and creates lovely movement and fluidity in the knees and upper thighs.
If you notice me performing these stretches in my Westport office waiting room between massage therapy clients, you'll see how much I love them! Give them a try - I'm sure your legs will feel freer and stronger. In fact, ballet is all about strength and freedom of movement; I think that's why I feel such affinity for it, along with regular massage therapy! Enjoy!
I realize I'm fortunate; I don't have a desk job. I have an engaging, physical job that allows me to move very freely throughout the day, and connect with wonderful clients. It's rewarding both for my clients and for me.
But a few times a year, I attend seminars. These are usually from 9-5, in a large stuffy room. In fact, as I sit typing this, I'm sitting in a huge room at the local courthouse for jury duty. It's during times like these that I think I empathize most with my clients who sit all day long. In future posts, I'll explore a full body stretching routine, but for now, I'll focus just on the neck.
The neck is comprised of seven cervical vertibrae (C-1 through C-7, beginning at the top of the neck). These vertibrae are connected to each other by ligaments, which provide stability and restrict movement. Tendons connect the vertibrae to muscles, which allow movement and can provide strength. Generally, there is little need to strengthen the muscles of the neck; their primary job is only to hold up and turn our heads.
The neck is therefore unique in needing to provide both stability and freedom of movement. In order to stretch it properly, we want to respect the ligaments which provide that stability by not pushing them past their threshholds, but also challenge the tendons through movement, which will keep them relaxed and functional.
Basically, don't try to force yourself to move beyond the point of comfort.
To stretch the trapezius ("traps"):
If you're seated, grab the seat of your chair with your hand firmly. Keep your elbow locked and unbent. Let your head fall to the opposite shoulder; let your entire body move a little toward that side. This should produce a lovely stretch in the side of the neck and shoulder. Hold (for as long as possible!) and repeat on the other side.
To stretch the side of the neck (sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles):
Turn your head to about 45 degrees, with your shoulders down and chin straight out.
Let the crown of your head fall toward your back, letting your chin point up. Hold your head with your hand, and gently pull even further back and toward one side. Change the direction of your chin to engage the smaller muscles. Hold only for a few seconds in each position and repeat on the other side.
Finally, while still holding your head gently with your hands, return your chin to center, and very gently pull your head toward your chest. Then let your eyes roll up to the sky, and let your head fall back as far as possible. Hold these positions only for a few seconds each.
These stretches should provide a lovely feeling of freedom of movement in the neck. You might even feel a few inches taller! The next time you're in a long class, on a long car ride, or even at work, take a few minutes to try this lovely routine. It'll be the most restful part of your day!
If you still notice some restriction of movement at a certain point in your neck, or if you have any pain, feel free to make an appointment with me to work on it more thoroughly. I'll see you in my Westport office!