A client asked me that today in response to our work in a particularly common area where many of us hold alot of tension…between the scapuli (shoulder blades) and traveling up into the neck and shoulders and sometimes down into the arms.
I believe many people, especially women, carry much of their stress in this area and experience an inordinate amount of pain, tightness, often numbness, and mostly recurring or chronic challenges with relaxing the muscles of the neck and shoulder. I have multiple thoughts on why women struggle so much with this, and I will mention a few here. First and perhaps foremost, blame society. Our society does not encourage women to put themselves out there, shoulders back and chests forward. Instead, we are taught as girls and young women to hold back, be physically inward and hunched forward, to not show our “stuff”. This results in poor posture and holding patterns that are challenging but not impossible to break as adults.
One of my favorite remedies for this comes from a Continuing Ed. class I took called “The Ultimate Shoulder” with Shuna Murelli. She said to remember to “Show Your Bow”…as in to think of the bow in the middle of a brassiere and to focus on putting it out there proudly and confidently in our daily activities. Remember to show your bow! Second, I believe that women often carry much too heavy of loads…physically and emotionally, We carry children, groceries, heavy handbags, and sometimes heavy hearts. The latter is a big topic…the former is a matter of conscious awareness, and perhaps making different choices. Buy a smaller handbag. Take 2 or 3 trips with groceries and kids instead of 1. Move a little slower when you are overloaded. Remember that it isn’t just that one instance that created the situation…it is all the repeated times of doing it and thinking we are invincible and we have to be superwomen. We ARE super women, and we can demonstrate that by taking care of ourselves!
And finally, and this applies to both men and women, I think the amount of time that we spend at the computer in our jobs and home lives is also a culprit. We sit for hours at our desks with our heads bent forward and our shoulders hunched in. Our jobs and lives often demand this of us…but again, we can choose to take regular stretch breaks at our desks, do the doorway stretch (if you don’t know what this is, ask), stand and walk around for a moment, and remember to breathe deeply and often. It starts with paying attention to how we are living in our bodies on a daily basis, bringing awareness to ways in which we may be making our pre-existing circumstances more difficult, and beginning to make small changes in our ways of doing things that can help to contribute to both immediate relief and more pronounced change in the long run.