Movement class
Stretching isn’t the only way to increase range of motion

Could You Use a 5-Minute Miracle?

Several years ago, I substitute taught an aerobics class. During the class I incorporated a short bit of Feldenkrais®. One woman, let’s call her Ellen, experienced such incredible improvement in her ability to turn that she began attending my weekly Awareness Through MovementTM class.

One day Ellen asked me, “Are you ever going to do short, practical exercises like you did in the aerobics class?” Her question got me thinking about how most people are either too busy, have a hard time motivating or simply don’t know how to help themselves feel better. So I created a month-long class filled with simple yet effective short “exercises” (instead of the typical format of one long lesson).

5-minute miracle
Small things can produce big changes

I called the class 5-Minute Miracles for Relieving Pain and Tension. Now these weren’t miracles of spontaneous healing. But when you experience benefits far beyond what you’d imagine doing gentle movement for a few minutes could generate, it can seem rather miraculous. While a 5-minute miracle won’t cure you, your comfort and range of motion may improve, tension and pain may diminish or you might just feel better.

In this time of much current-event stress and stay-at-home stiffness, I wanted to offer you one of these miracles.

Tips to Maximize Your Benefits

First, the most important thing is not the movements in this exercise but how you do them. Here are my three tips to get the most out of the experience.

Tips to Free Your Neck
Notice *how* you do these movements

1. Stay in Your Range of Comfort: Less is more with these movements. If you typically strive and stretch, I challenge you to do less than half of what you could do and to stop well before you feel a stretch or any discomfort.

2. Use Your Awareness: The movements themselves are secondary. Paying attention to your sensations is the key to creating change.

3. Take Pauses and Rests: Pause briefly between movements and let go of all muscular work. This way your next movement will be fresh and new. And after completing a step in the instructions, take a short rest. During your rest, notice your sensations and any differences from before.

A 5-Minute Miracle to Turn More Easily

You can do this short exercise sitting in a chair or standing. If you sit, sit at the front of your chair with your feet flat on the floor.

Woman turning easily
Is it easier to turn right or left?

1. Turn to look right and left several times.

Allow your shoulders and chest to turn along with your head. How far do you turn easily, without effort or stretching? Is one direction easier?

2. Facing your “new front,” turn your head right and left.

Turn a small amount to the right—I’ll call this your “new front”. If sitting, you can place both hands comfortably on your right thigh.

Staying turned to your “new front”, begin to turn your head a little right and left while keeping your shoulders relatively quiet. Breathe easily and let go of any unnecessary tension in your jaw, neck, shoulders or anywhere else.

Next, move your eyes in the opposite direction of your head a few times. Then return to sitting normally.

3. Facing your “new front,” turn your shoulders right and left.

Again, turn to your “new front”. This time, turn your shoulders a little right and left while keeping your head still. If you’re sitting, you can let your hands slide a bit on your thigh, being moved by your shoulders.

Then start turning your head in the opposite direction as your shoulders. When you feel ready, return to sitting normally.

4. Facing your “new front,” slide your hands down your right leg.

Movement exercise
Slide your hands down your leg. © IFF Archive, Robert Golden

Turn to your “new front” and slide both hands down the front of your right leg toward your feet. As you bend forward, really let your head hang so your neck doesn’t have to work. As you return to being vertical, think of stacking up one vertebra at a time—start with your tail and let your head be the last thing to come up. Repeat a few times.

Next, slide your hands down the outside of your right leg. Let your head hang but turn to look a little behind you to the right.

5. Facing forward, turn to look right and left again.

Again, just turn right and left like you did in step 1. Allow your chest and shoulders to move. Has anything improved—perhaps in your comfort, the quality or range of movement?

Finally, stand and walk a little and notice if anything feels different from your usual walk. Look around your environment. Is there a little more freedom in your head and neck or somewhere else?

Happy woman
Get your tools to feel better

If you’d like, go through this exercise again, this time turned to the left.

Want to feel better?

Come build your movement toolbox for ways to increase mobility, relieve pain and tension, and more! Join me any Tuesday for an Awareness Through MovementTM class (currently on Zoom).