Most of us have gone to the grocery store, specifically spurred by the need for one item : Many of us, however, rarely leave the store with only one purchase. In my case, the thinking goes something like this: “Well, I will be out of ‘x’ in a day or two, so I might as well pick it up now, and save myself the extra trip later…” Then, typically, I end up with a handbasket full of things that I had not intended to buy–everything, of course, except the item I specifically came to buy.

Today’s post is essentially a postscript to a previous post on enduring the holiday season with the help of cross-lateral movements (“‘Tis the Season”). In that entry, as in the aforementioned grocery store example, I forgot to include the technique that motivated me to write about brain balance in the first place. It is a small, simple exercise that works its way into my daily practice, regardless of the routine’s focus: I do not really plan for it, but it finds me, and provides instant relief to tight or stuck-feeling neck and shoulder muscles. Although it is fairly simple, it does require focus and coordination; ultimately, it delivers mental clarity and a feeling of physical balance.

Oppositional Shoulder Rolls

To begin, do a few shoulder shrugs. Start with both shoulders simultaneously—inhale up, exhale down—and then alternate with two different breathing patterns: Inhale left up, exhale down; inhale right up, exhale down. After doing this pattern a few times at a fairly rapid pace, try: Inhale left up, exhale down as the right comes up; inhale right down as the left comes up. Continue a few times, then switch sides: Inhale right up, exhale right down as left comes up, etc.
Now you are ready for shoulder rolls. Roll both shoulders back a few times, then forward; then try one at a time, forward and backward a few times on one side, then the other. Next, alternate rolls, as if you are swimming—front crawl and backstroke.

And now, prepare to concentrate: Begin slowly, as if you are shrugging both shoulders up; however, you will then roll the left shoulder backward, as the right shoulder rolls forward. This may feel sticky or mind-boggling at first: That’s the point; by practicing this technique, you will free your mind from patterned response, which allows for greater mental clarity.

Small tip: Although they are moving in opposition to each other, both shoulders will reach the top and bottom of their respective circles simultaneously.

After you have found a smooth flow with the left shoulder moving backward, and the right forward, reverse directions of each shoulder: As the right shoulder circles back, the left circles forward. It is natural that one set of movements will feel easier than the other.

Fringe benefit: You may feel and/or hear some cracking a bit as tense muscles release.

You can practice this technique anywhere, seated or standing. If you travel frequently, it is a great tool to use after a long flight or car ride. It is also excellent for musicians, or after a long stint at the computer.

’Til next time…

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