Exercises to help align your neck and head

As I wrote about earlier, correct postural alignment can prevent many overuse injuries. Bad posture can restrict breathing, blood flow to the brain, and headaches.

Here are a few exercises to help strengthen and alleviate postural issues. Try these when you need to take a break during the day when sitting at your desk editing or when you are out shooting all day. They are perfect to re-energize your body and help realign yourself.

 

FIRST EXERCISE: Sitting or standing with equal weight distributed between right and left legs, take a deep, slow breath and feel your sternum rise then breathe out slowly. Repeat a few times until you understand what I am talking about. Next try taking a deep breath, and hold your sternum up as you breathe out. This exercise will allow your whole upper body to assume a more anatomically correct posture and will decrease stress on neck muscles as well as increase oxygen levels! Do not arch your back, keep abdominals lightly contracting and try to stack your spine as if your vertebrae were blocks stacked on top of each other. Repeat this exercise as many times as you’d like. About 10-15 repetitions should suffice.

SECOND EXERCISE “The chin tuck” has you lying on your back. Place a small towel roll under the base of the head or occiput. Slowly bring the chin in towards your Adam’s apple until you feel resistance. Without much force hold 5 seconds at end range and then allow the chin to return to neutral. Repeat about 30 times. This exercise activates the deep neck flexors which are stability muscles that go to sleep when your head falls forward in an anatomically incorrect posture. This exercise lengthens the back of the upper neck which becomes compressed with a forward lean of the head. Remember do not use much force.

THIRD EXERCISE “The wall push up”: Stand in front of a free wall (if you live in NY good luck!) at arm’s length from the wall. Bring your arms straight forward to 90 degrees so hands are in line with the shoulders and lean on the wall with straight elbows. Push the wall kindly away from you as you breathe and lift the sternum. Breathing will encourage the head to sit on top of your thorax and the shoulder blades to come to neutral position. Not pulled together or retracted. Take a few deep breaths in this position to lengthen your spine from the crown of the head to the bottom of your tail bone. Feel the energy of your breath traveling from the top to the bottom of your spine. Slowly bend the elbows down towards the floor evenly keeping them close to your body. Try to keep your torso still without arching the low back and without allowing the shoulder blades to come together. Stop when your elbows reach the wall without resting on it and return to the starting position. Repeat 30-45 times if you don’ t experience strain to the shoulder or elbow.  This exercise is great for activating and strengthening all the muscles in your arms and upper thorax.

PECTORAL STRETCH: Stand in front of a door frame, bring both arms to the side to 90 degrees elevation with elbows straight, bend elbows to 90 degrees lean the forearms gently on either side of a door frame, start with your right leg in front of the left and slowly move forward until you feel a stretch across your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times alternating right and left legs forward. The Pectoral stretch should help open the chest and anterior shoulder. Do not allow the shoulders to fall forward. Do not perform this stretch if you feel pain.

The exercises mentioned above are simple and safe ways to stay aligned, calm and strong. These exercises can be advanced to be more challenging but I would like you to try the simple version first. In our fast moving world, it is super important for humans to slow down, breathe and look inside to ask the body what it needs. I will talk to you soon my photographer friends, until then I send you best regards and wish you a peaceful day.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts on how you feel after performing these exercises. Send us a little video or photos of you performing these exercises. We’ll post the best ones here and on instagram.

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