By: Jennifer Malott Kotylo
We all know what it feels like to ride a horse with a stiff neck – the motion underneath us is jarring, jolting, off-putting almost. It is hard to communicate with our mounts because everything is rigid. The horse has a difficult time stopping, going and turning. It is the antithesis of athletic, fluid, beautiful. We also know what it feels like when the horse’s neck is like butter. Everything is easier. We have better communication, there is more flow, more grace.
Well if the suppleness of your horse’s neck can influence how it feels, imagine what your stiff neck is doing to you! Here are a couple of super simple, highly effective ways to loosen up that stiff neck of yours! Just wait and see how much better your riding feels afterwards.
Before you start, test your neck’s range of motion by looking to the right and left. Don’t strain, just turn your head to the point it goes easily and note where you are looking. Then try the following techniques, testing your range of motion between each one. You will be amazed at how quickly your neck will respond!
Move your eyeballs! Keeping your head still, move your eyeballs to the right and left for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Test to see if your range of motion has improved. Then, still keeping your head still, move your eyeballs diagonally up to the right, then up to the left for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Test again.
Massage your “poll.” Use your fingers to vigorously rub the indentation at the base of your skull for 30 second to a minute. Test!
Massage the TMJ joint. Use your fingers to massage your jaw joint. Your masseter muscles are some of the strongest in your body and they get tight. Not just from eating, but from talking! Some of us have the habit of also grinding our teeth, which puts strain on these often times overused muscles. Your masseter muscles do not actually attach to your neck, but tie in with others that do. Getting them to relax cascades into your neck. Test!
Pull your hair. Gently grasp your hair and pull it up. Do this all over your skull, essentially massaging all of the muscles that surround your head. Test one last time.
Are you feeling like an owl yet! Depending on your own body, some of these techniques will work better on you than others. Choose a couple of them to do every day as a first step towards a supple, flexible neck and a healthier back in general.
I want to hear from you! Your health and fitness is just as important as the health and fitness of your horse so e-mail me with any questions or challenges you are facing!
Jennifer developed a passion for body awareness and biomechanics while pursuing her lifelong quest of international level dressage riding. She is a certified Core Dynamics Pilates Instructor, certified Equilates teacher and certified Balimo practitioner. Jennifer is also the creator of the DVD program “Improve Your Riding Through Movement.” No matter what style of riding you are into – no matter what your experience level is and no matter what your age may be, these DVDs will help you create a body that is more flexible, safer in the saddle and one that will enjoy riding for years and years to come. Jennifer is also a national speaker on both health and wellness topics. To contact Jennifer, visit her website at: http://jenniferkotylo.com