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TENNIS BALL TRICK? A tennis ball can reduce stress and fatigue, as well as address shoulder and neck issues

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In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the concept of Yin/Yang helps us remember to think about the complementary sides of our bodies. I talked about the front/back connection in this post.

Today, I want to talk about left/right.

(That’s the right and left of your body, not the political spectrum. But the idea I want to talk about is not far off; without good communication and integration between the two, the whole doesn’t work as well. 😉 )

So, back to the body. Often, we’ll get some kind of ache or pain on one side of the body, and our attention goes to that side. In order to address that ache or pain, it is often helpful to give some attention to the other side.

For example, I broke my left ankle a few months ago, so naturally, my attention was focused on that left ankle. It’s the one that hurt and that I had to take care of and rehabilitate. But it turns out that my right ankle and leg had to work extra hard while my left ankle healed. And, I learned through my physical therapy that my right ankle is weak, too. So, as part of the rehabilitation of my left ankle, I’ve made sure to do the exercises on my right ankle as well.

Therefore, when you use acupressure points that you may learn on this blog, use them on both sides of your body. When you work on the tightness in our right shoulder, also work on your left shoulder. Sometimes you don’t feel the tightness in the left shoulder because the right is much more tight, and it’s hogging all your attention. But you may find that when your right shoulder gets some relief, the left one starts to bother you. It was tight all along; it was just being shy and quiet and waiting to speak up for some attention.

So remember, as with yin and yang, address the left and right, for a holistic approach to healing and wellness.

Springtime is a season of new beginnings and of renewal. An important part of that process is letting go of those things and ideas that no longer serve us, to make room for the new.

Thus, a perfect time for Spring Cleaning.

For people like me who have a difficult time of letting go of stuff, spring cleaning can be stressful, even when I know I don’t need that thing anymore.

clear your clutterclear your clutter

 A little book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui has helped me to let go. The most helpful part of the the book is that it helps you identify why you have clutter; when you know that, it’s easier to de-clutter.

For example, I tend to save stuff because I can’t stand the thought of wasting something that’s still useful. Therefore, my strategy for letting go is to find a new home for the thing I no longer use. For example, a bunch of back issues of a yoga magazine recently found their way from my bookshelf to a new yogini. It was as easy as listing on Craigslist!

How is this related to acupressure? Think about the places you carry your stress; those places have a lot of stuck energy. For me, it’s in my shoulders, and when they are tight, my head gets foggy, my mood gets heavy… I get stuck. I get relief when I press acupressure points related to my shoulders. In the same way, stuff in my home or office that’s just sitting around and taking up room can get the energy of the home or office stuck. Feng shui is like acupressure for your home.

  • Are there stuck places in your home or office?
  • Do you have things that no longer serve you?

Craigslist and Freecycle are great resources for giving things away, in addition to local charities and non-profits that could use your stuff. Also for clothes, consider organizing a clothes swap for friends who are about the same size as you.

Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.


Name: Hoku or Joining of the Valleys (Large Intestine 4)LI4 point

Location: On the top of the hand, on the web where the thumb and the index finger meet. (See the red dot on the hand in the photo.)LI4 demo1
To hold: Squeeze the point by putting your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your hand. Make small circular motions with your thumb until you feel the point; it is tender on many people.LI4 demo2Make sure that the hand that is holding the point is relaxed. The demo photo above shows you how to hold the point, but the hands are a little tense; the second photo, on the right, shows you the hands relaxed, which is how you want to do it.

Hold for 10 or 15 seconds initially, until you figure out what works for you. You can hold for a few minutes, but make sure that the holding hand does not get tense or tired out. Release gently if you feel any acute pain.

This is a wonderful point. It is effective for relieving so many discomforts, including headaches, constipation, insomnia, stress, shoulder and neck tension.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

In the last minutes of 2006, I was in a car accident. We were just about to cross the Oakland Bay Bridge to go home after a warm and lovely New Year’s Eve dinner, and the car I was driving was hit by a truck.

Fortunately, no one was injured. The man who hit us was calm and friendly, which helped calm my startled nerves, and I trust that the insurance matters will all work out alright. When the clock struck 2007, we were still on the side of the road, but had a great view of the fireworks display across the Bay.

Nevertheless, my spirit has been a bit off-kilter today, the first day of 2007. Worried about the repair requirements, wary about driving, rattled that the transition to the new year was accompanied by such a jolt. However, I remind myself of the healthy intention I set for myself yesterday, before the accident.

That is, to practice some yoga and meditation every morning, even if only for 15 minutes. I ALWAYS feel better when I do that. I know this supports all aspects of my life.

And this morning, even though I was feeling a bit tentative and sorry for myself, and my neck and shoulder were a bit uncomfortable–from the accident? from stress and worry?–I did my practice. I felt better afterward, in body and spirit, and I believe it allowed me to enjoy the visits with good friends through the day as much as I have. My morning practice also probably helped to recognize my “off-kilter” state, and just let it be, rather than getting more worried about that.

So, I invite you to consider setting a healthy intention for yourself.

  • Not a goal, which sets up a specific expectation. Here’s a familiar example: I must diet and lose x pounds by y-date.
  • But a guiding principle that helps you with what to do in every moment. It might look like this: My intention is to pay attention to when I am actually hungry, and eat food that is nutritious and delicious, enough to satisfy my hunger, and no more.

When you pay attention to the joyful or peaceful and restful moments in your life, what healthy intentions can you set?

I keep thinking about a story last week in the New York Times about women with shoulder and back problems because their bags are too heavy. Apparently, there’s a trend to oversized bags–in the world of fashion-conscious–where women are hauling around so much stuff on one shoulder that massage therapists and chiropractors are seeing an increase in women with shoulder and back issues!

I was surprised to read that the women, and even some of the therapists, thought the physical discomfort was merely an unfortunate consequence of adhering to a fashion trend. This line of thinking is so alien to me, that I was dumbfounded. But then I thought, perhaps there are places in my life that I am a slave to “fashion.”

My commitment to sustainable choices, for example, sometimes stymies my making really sensible choices. For example, I might go out of my way to buy a box of recycled tissues (for my wellness studio.) Was that really sensible when I consider that the extra energy (fossil fuel and my personal time/energy) needed to do that may have cost more than the savings of using recycled tissues. But it’s the thought that counts! Well yes, but also the point is in weighing individual choices within the context of the larger goal.

So, I throw out this question (as much to myself as to you):

  • Are you a “slave to fashion” in some way in your life?

Be it handbag fashion, stiletto-heel fashion, or stubbornly-eco fashion. How can you make sensible choices around those? Making a habit of decluttering your purse every Sunday night; stretching and massaging your feet and lower legs after a high-heel day; or remembering the big picture for sustainable choices.

Last night I was at the opening party for the newest Elephant Pharmacy, in Los Altos / Mountain View (on El Camino north of San Antonio.) There I gave free mini-acupressure sessions to people who attended. While I only spent 10-15 minutes with each person, I was reminded of how effective a few minutes of acupressure and holistic wellness coaching can be.

For example, I worked on a lot of tight shoulders and upper backs. A very common complaint. A few minutes of shiatsu-style acupressure gave immediate relief and brought smiles. In addition, I talked about the concept of yin/yang, front/back; how important opening and stretching the front of the shoulder area is to relieving the back. I taught this simple stretch; stand by a wall, or in a door opening.

shoulder stretch (click to see larger image)

Place your hand flat against the wall or side of the door opening, keep your arm straight, and turn your body until you feel a nice stretch in the front shoulder area. You may also feel a stretch along the inner side of your arm. Hold it there for about 15 seconds and take a few deep breaths. Switch and do it on the other side. If you’re in a door opening, you can stretch both arms at the same time.

With this easy stretch, some people walked away a new tool in their personal Healthy Intentions Toolkit. So can you!