There’s a lot of talk these days about going back to our roots…way back. Nutritionists are urging us to the “paleo” diet, based on our ancestors’ omnivorous appetites. Other studies suggest that the hunter/gatherer “feast or famine” lifestyle can be duplicated by fasting twice a week, then enjoying our food the other five days. Fitness experts are touting HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training. Based on the notion that our paleo ancestors experienced short bursts of high activity (running away from lions, fighting invading tribes) and extended rests, they recommend bursts of intense running or work followed by an interval of slower activity, instead of the traditional cardio workout.
Perhaps hunter gatherers are even to blame for our shopping behavior. A recent article in the NY Times showed how shoppers abandoned Penney’s when the store stopped having sales and markdowns, instead offering an “everyday low price.” People complained it was no fun anymore. They don’t call it “bargain hunting” for nothing.
I was thinking about all this recently because of all the tension we carry in our shoulders. After all, our shoulders were meant to carry things: the kill from the hunt, the harvest, our babies. The shoulder girdle and upper arms chopped wood, carried water, dug fields, picked fruit. And now we sit at our computers with one hand on the mouse, and the other hand texting on the smartphone, carrying the burden of worries about bills and family on our shoulders.
While it’s not practical for most of us to adopt the “paleo workout” of gathering wood, stalking game and mowing our fields with a scythe, perhaps relaxing our shoulders can create more ease through the whole body.
The Feldenkrais Method offers many lessons that can help with shoulder injuries and pain. Here’s a small exercise to try at your desk:
Sit with your feet flat on the floor, your hands in your lap. Very slowly raise one shoulder upward in the direction of your ear. Slowly lower it. Try to do it in super slow motion. Keep your breath soft and your head straight. Repeat about five times. You may find your shoulder is jumpy or stiff, just do it gently and slowly. The fifth time, hold your shoulder up in the air for three slow breaths, then slowly lower it down. Notice the difference in your two shoulders. Then, since your other shoulder will probably be jealous, do the same thing with the other arm.
You may feel so good, you’ll want to go hunting!