It's holiday season!
Food, family, and fun with a side of inactivity. Don't let holiday travel turn you into a Grinch.
You’re going to be stuck in a small confined space whenever you are traveling or when you are at the dinner table, and likely other times throughout the day. You will move in about a two-foot radius, so we want to give you the most bang for your buck movements to make sure you don’t get to the end of the day feeling like you’re melting into yourself, or just feeling down right blahhh, like you’re melting in upon yourself.
Here are a couple different movements you can do to feel refreshed and to get you through the traveling, eating, and all your various holiday activities.
1. We’ll start at the head. Tuck your chin, as if you were making a double-chin. Then place one hand behind your head and push your head into that hand behind your head. This works the muscles along the neck and it allows you to push your neck in an opposing position that you would typically be sitting in all day, which is a forward-neck position. Holding this for an extended period of time might feel different at first, but as you relax, let go and repeat this a few times. You’ll notice that you will begin to settle into this position and relieve some of that tension and stress in your head and neck. This is an easy exercise for your neck. If repeat for about 20-30 seconds each time, you’ll find yourself feeling a lot better in your neck and shoulders.
2. Let’s make our way to the upper back. Again, especially when traveling, we tend to be in a slumped over position, so it’s a good idea to try to open yourself up in that upper back. An easy way to do this is to put your palms together in a prayer-like position. Then, as you press your hands together, take a deep inhale in and exhale as you rotate your torso to the right as far as you can go. Rotate your torso in this same manner on the left side, then repeat this a couple times on each side. Pushing your body into positions that you typically wouldn’t be allows you to open yourself up to relieve some of that tension within. If you develop a cramp in your side while doing this, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; rather this exercise allows you to work through that range of motion to release any tension.
3. More upper back! If this slow and controlled rotation of the spine does not feel comfortable for you, you can always do what we call “whips”. Simply place your palms together again in that prayer-like position and imagine there is a target behind each one of your elbows. Rotate your torso back and forth rapidly to hit those imaginary targets and create a rapid “whip” motion. The idea behind this is that as you keep aiming to hit those targets behind more quickly, you might feel some crackles and pops along your spine and upper back, which is just an audible cue that you are pushing your body into its end range of motion to relieve tension.
4. We call this one the pretzel for lower and upper back! Cross your right or left leg over the opposite knee so that the back of one knee fits into the knee on the bottom. Your legs should look somewhat like a pretzel here. Then place your arm on the outside of that top leg and rotate your torso in the opposite direction of the knee that’s on top. Place your other arm behind your head and pull yourself in one direction as you rotate your torso in the opposite direction. Take a deep inhale and on the exhale, see if you can twist even further. You will feel a lot of goodness in your lower back and upper back.
5. This one is for the calves. Cross one leg on top of one knee, but this time, rest the calf over the knee instead of fitting your knee into the back of your leg. Fold your hands over your shin of that top leg and gently press your calf into the knee behind it as you also flex and extend your foot. This is almost like a self-massage with movement, which is a great way to give your calves a little bit of love!
6. Last, but not least, this is one of our favorites!….get up out of your chair and go for a walk (Check out this video to see why walking is great for low back pain)! It sounds so simple, but getting up and moving is one of the best things you can do after being sedentary for an extended period of time.
These are just a few simple exercises for you to keep in your back pocket, should you find yourself feeling stiff and achy from all the holiday travel and other activities.
Enjoy the holidays, and keep moving!
For stiff hip relief click here
For upper back knot relief click here
Need help dealing with stress, click here
Dr. Gene Shirokobrod is the co-founder and CEO of Recharge. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.