Neck rotation

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The primary muscle that turns your head side to side is your sternocleidomastoid. No, you don't have to know how to spell it, but take a look at Figure 4-1 to see where it's located. It's important to keep flexibility in this area because many of the movements in life require you to turn your head. Every time you look over your shoulder, you use this muscle.

Perform the following steps for this exercise:

1. Inhale and make sure that your shoulders are down, chest is lifted, and abdominals are in.

2. As you exhale, slowly turn your head to the right (see Figure 4-4).

3. Find a focal point to stare at and hold this position for five seconds.

4. Inhale and release back to center.

5. As you exhale, turn your head again in the same direction and find another focal point a little farther than the first.

6. Hold this stretch for five seconds and release back to center.

7. Repeat the series, looking in the other direction.

Figure 4-4:

The neck rotation.

Figure 4-4:

The neck rotation.

A few do's and don'ts for this stretch:

1 Do breathe as you hold the stretch.

1 Do anchor your shoulders so they face forward. You don't want your shoulders to move as you turn your head.

i Do sit up or stand up tall as you hold the stretch.

i Don't yank or force the stretch or you'll do more harm than good; because these muscles work so hard all day holding your head up, they're delicately balanced and easily injured.

Relieving headaches

Statistics show that over 90 percent of people have a headache at some time in their life, which, amazingly, means that a lucky 10 percent of people never have a headache. But a headache can happen at any time, anywhere, and can definitely ruin your day. And even though headaches are common, most people don't have any idea where a headache comes from.

Tension headaches are by far the most common form of headaches and can be due to stress, which causes you to clench or strain the muscles of your face, neck, jaw, and/or shoulders. When these muscles are tight they can compress the nerves that lead to your scalp, causing a tight, squeezing sensation in your head. Fatigue, lack of sleep, or even sleep disorders can also result in this type of headache.

Posture also plays a key role in many tension headaches. Many of the positions we habitually put ourselves in tighten neck and back muscles. Try to avoid constantly tilting your head to one side (a problem for frequent phone users). Be aware of your posture as you sit at your desk, drive your car, stand in line at the grocery store, or carry a bag or purse.

Migraines are generally less common headaches but more severe. Although stress can be a major trigger for migraine headache, migraines and cluster headaches are regarded as primarily vascular in nature, and not necessarily the result of muscle tightness. What triggers a migraine headache in one person may have no effect in someone else, including hormone fluctuations, smoking, chocolate, and even the weather.

When it comes to relieving the pain of occasional tension headaches, thousands of people turn to over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, which can be very effective. In addition, some proven-effective natural remedies include i Ice packs i A warm shower or bath i Massaging the neck and shoulders i Aerobic exercise (to promote the release of endor-phins and relax tight muscles)

i Eating regularly i Sex i A glass of wine

Treatment for recurrent tension headaches, however, is another story. A frequently throbbing head is your body's way of telling you that something significant is out of balance in your life. Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life, but by far the best course of action to combat stress-related tension headaches is prevention. Although such natural remedies as a visit to a chiropractor, acupressure, acupuncture, and even hypnosis can help with recurring tension headaches, several well-regarded studies have concluded that stress management skills and relaxation training can reduce chronic headache for 50 to 70 percent of patients. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and most important of all, stretching, can trigger the relaxation response, which can lower blood pressure, reduce pulse rates, and release muscle tension. Regular stretching keeps you calm and flexible, and it can help reduce headache frequency and intensity.

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