Release work and stretching have been proven methods to help melt away physical tension while reducing mental stress. This simple practice using tools from one of my favorite companies, Soma System or your own homemade version, can make a lasting impact when practiced regularly. Take one minute per technique or if time allows, spend as long as feels good!
7 Minutes to Melt Stress
- Get in touch with how you are feeling:
Lie on your back on a firm but comfortable surface. Close your eyes. Notice how your body feels. Mentally scanning from the inside out, take note of where the tension is residing.
Now become aware of your breath. Notice the air traveling through your nostrils and down your throat as you inhale. Feel your lungs expand and fill with air. Pause for a moment to notice the transition from inhale to exhale. Now slowly allow the air to travel in the return direction, all the while noticing the areas of tension in your body. Repeat this “awareness breathing” several more times before moving on. With each new breath, imagine your inhale gathering up the tension and then allow your exhale to release that tension.
A guided body scan with a mindfulness app can be a helpful tool if you prefer guidance to assist in this process. I highly recommend the Calm App.
2. Melt From The Top Down*
Grab Soma System’s Double Track Roller or your homemade version and lie on your back with your knees bent. Place the balls at the base of your skull. Gently explore this area, nodding your head, turning your head to the right and to the left as well as holding on any area that needs more attention. Be conscious of tension and sensation, all the while remaining relaxed, with spacious, open breath. Remove the ball and notice how your head feels as you lie on the floor.
3. Melt Your Upper Back*
Begin by putting the balls on your upper trapezius, as seen in the photo, with arms by your sides, across your chest or behind the back of your head for support. An additional foam support or rolled up blanket or pillow can be added under the head to increase relaxation. Lift your hips off of the floor and begin exploring the area starting with the upper trapezius and gently making your way down to lower trapezius and rhomboids, just below. Rolling up and down along the muscles.
Next, as you lift hips off the floor, inhale your arms up over your head, then exhale to lower them back down by your side, like you are making a snow angel with just your arms.
Finally, cross your arms across your chest, giving yourself a gentle hug. Now begin to roll the ball farther under your shoulder blade and bringing your elbows to face the right.Repeat on the other side.
Remove the ball and notice how your upper back feels as you lie on the floor.
4. Knees to Chest Stretch:
Hug your knees to your chest, gently rock back and forth to release the low back. Breathe and enjoy this stretch. Linger here for a minute.
5. Bridge Stretch:
Lie face up with knees bent, directly over your feet on floor. Your arms are extended by your sides, palms up. Keeping shoulders down, engage your abs and press into heels to lift hips and back to form a diagonal line from shoulders to knees. If your shoulders allow, gently clasp your hands together under your low back for a chest stretch. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths then slowly lower. Repeat for up to one minute.
6. Spinal Twist Stretch:
Lift your right knee into your chest, and then gently cross it over to the left side of your body. Extend your right arm in a T-position, palm facing down. Bring your left hand to your right knee, and gently press downward to increase the stretch. Turn your head to the right. Stay here for 3-5 breaths. Use strength of your core and an exhale to lift your knee back to center. Repeat on the other side. Afterwards, hug both knees into your chest to release your lower back.
7. Check Back In:
Check back in with your body as you did in step 1, noticing the areas that previously felt tense and how they are a bit more relaxed. Perhaps you notice an area that needs more attention for next time. This practice is just that, a practice to help you begin to be more in touch with your body on a regular basis. Bringing awareness to tension while using the mind and the breath to let go is a highly effective method of destressing. Over time, you will become better able to deal with stress (it’s almost impossible to eliminate) and become more adaptable when curve balls come your way.
.Want more tips on stress reduction? Read on…
- Before your practice read a sentence or a paragraph from a book that focuses on peace, calm and positivity. I like Pema Chodron’s How To Meditate and Make Peace with Yourself by Kathryn J Hermes
- As you practice your check in, you may enjoy adding gentle music.
- Calm.com, Stop Think and Breathe by Toolsforpeace.com and Meditation Timer Free by Maxwell Software all have free apps to assist you in your mindfulness practice
- Try Yoga, Pilates and Mediation Classes
- Eat for optimal health and hydrate with water. Stay tuned for more articles on this subject! Follow my blog to stay in touch.
- Chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage therapy are also effective at reducing stress.
*As you begin your release work with the tools described…”Look for the middle road in which your breath remains spacious and your muscles can let go. If you noticing yourself bracing your back, clenching your jaw or holding your breath, first direct your awareness to toward the release of this response. If the response is non-negotiable, remove any of the movement additions within the technique. If this doesn’t ease your experience, transition to a wall technique. These mindful observations and adjustments promote self-care and result in effective release”. ~Sonya Chang, PT, Soma System
As with any movement practice, be sure to check with your doctor to ensure all these moves are safe for your individual needs.