Exercises for a supple neck and happy hips the somatics way
Stiff neck? Tight lower back? Well, you’re in luck( I don’t mean you’re lucky to have tension!). I’m going to show you how to take control ofyour muscular tension and greatly improve your posture with a somatic exercise sequence known as ‘hip hikes’. (This exercise sequence is taken from my upcoming Soul Somatics video, out soon).
Who’s it for?
This sequence is specifically designed for people who do one-sided sports (like golf, squash, tennis or badminton) or have an imbalanced posture through habitual muscular tension (sitting awkwardly at a desk or over doing exercise) or a trauma. It’s a rehabilitation exercise to regain control of your waist muscles and unlock tension in your lower back, torso and neck. It improves your posture and functional movement; and helps you co-ordinate a smoother, easier walking method and unlock chronic stiff muscles.
To do this right, you’ll need to break down the exercise into 4 stages, (lower body / upper body / whole movement / rest pose), then repeat the whole sequence on the other side.
Hints and cautions: place a folded blanket underneath the head if you have tight neck muscles. Listen to your body. All somatics movements should be done gently and smoothly in micro slow motion.
Remember the 3Ps: Practice, Patience and Persistence. This is a learning process that needs to be learnt gradually. Your motto for doing somatics movements should always be ‘How slow can I go?’ and your mantra should be ‘Do less, feel more’.
Right, let’s get started.
- Lower body movement
Start position: Lie on your side with your knees bent and at 90 degrees to the hips. Your supporting arm should be lying outstretched with the palm up (use a pillow or blanket if the neck is uncomfortable). The top hand then feels for the waist muscles with the knees bent and at 90 degrees to the hips. You then extend your top leg with the big toe resting on the floor.
Movement: Inhale, feel the waist picking up off the mat, (notice a space underneath your waist) connect into your waist; as you’re inhaling, you widen and lengthen through the torso. Feel a long stretch from waist to hip. Keep the leg straight and start to exhale, slowly flattening the side of your waist into the mat and then squeeze the hip into the waist (try not to get your buttock muscles involved!). The leg will lift to hip height (try not to lift the leg too high). Hold for a few seconds. As you inhale, you slowly lower the leg and feel the hip lengthening away from the waist. When the leg has lowered let the knee roll forwards, relaxing the hip. Make sure you completely let go before you start again. Repeat x 3.
2. Upper body movement
Start position: Lie on your side with the knees bent and at 90 degrees to the hips. The supporting arm is lying outstretched with the palm up (use pillow or blanket if the neck is uncomfortable), Top hand gently supporting around the ear.
Movement: As you inhale, see if you can pick the waist muscle off the mat, (it may take a bit of practice!) extending the elbow. As you exhale, flatten the waist into the mat and slowly lift the head, drawing the elbow towards the waist and holding the head up for a few seconds. Enjoy the sensation of squeezing the waist muscles (try not to use the neck muscles). Inhaling, slowly lower the head back to the mat, releasing from the hip and waist muscles and let go. Feel the lengthening effect of the torso, from the waist to elbow. Repeat x 3.
Stage 3: Whole body movement
Now we’re going to put those two movements together to really feel the connection into the waist muscles.
Start position: Same as above, lie on your side with the knees bent and at 90 degrees to the hips. The supporting arm is lying outstretched with the palm up (use pillow or blanket if the neck is uncomfortable). The top hand is gently supporting around the ear. You then extend the top leg with the big toe resting on the floor.
Movement: As you inhale, extend the leg away, picking the waist up off the mat. Extend the elbow over your head to feel a wonderful extension throughout your torso. As you exhale, lift the leg and head in unison, shortening into the waist. Hold for a few seconds, feeling the connection deep into your waist muscles. You’ll notice a much stronger action on your waist when the two movements are put together. As you lower your leg and head simultaneously, extend away and create space and length in your torso. Once you’ve returned your leg and head back to the mat, finish the sequence by rolling slightly forward with the hip and head, and let go. Relax your lower foot here, repeat, but try not to engage your buttock muscles, using the muscles at the front of the body instead.
Notice: As you do the movement, your palm stays facing up. If your neck starts to feel uncomfortable try resting the top arm in front of you. Make sure you listen to your body and don’t force this movement.
This is a fantastic movement for creating connection on the waist and letting go of the tension in the lower back and buttock muscles. Repeat x 3.
- Rest pose
Position: Rolling over onto your back, make sure the weight of your head is centrally balanced, and release your shoulders. Bend your knees and align them with your pelvis, spreading out your toes to feel a firm connection on the soles of your feet. Make sure you spend time noticing what’s happening on the side you’ve just worked. How does it feel compared to the other side? Relax for a while here. If you have lower back issues, glue your knees together and take your feet a little bit wider than pelvic width to support the sacrum. Try resting your hands over your abdomen and relax. Take some time…it’s safe to do nothing…be with your breath.
Now you’re ready to repeat the whole sequence on the other side. Follow exactly the same sequence of movements from stages 1-4. There may be differences on each side of the body, so go slowly. Ease yourself into this movement and remember to breathe in and pick up the waist, breathe out and let the exhalation aid the lift. Do not pull the head with your hand. Use your waist muscles to lift your leg and head. Once you get used to this exercise sequence, you can start to close your eyes to sense the release in the centre of your body. You are training your brain to tap into the muscles of the waist and re-balance your whole body.
Need more help?
This exercise sequence is taken from my upcoming Soul Somatics video, out soon). If you want to learn more movements like this one in the comfort of your home, join my mailing list to find out about the video release, or check out my other exercise blogs. Thanks for reading.