The Perfect Upper Back Stretch with a Little Andaman Slice
One of my living hero’s Yvon Chouinard once said an adventure is a trip that you may not come back from at all, and at the very least come back a different person. Right now sitting back in Varkala I feel changed. Physically I feel exhausted from days of tropical flue, fever, and intense heat. Mentally I feel scattered, fragile and vulnerable, no doubt the result of a 2 day period of heat exhaustion that left my fluid deprived body involuntarily convulsing, my sleep deprived mind hallucinating, and my poor girlfriend and best friend painstakingly stressed. And spiritually I feel awakened, alive, compelled to stay open minded.
Finally, amongst all this chaos, was one breath taking day of exploration and the most perfect left hand reef pass. I would not trade this shattered feeling if it meant that one perfect day was erased. That one-day of illegally bribing our way into the indigenous southwest of the little Andaman Islands. That motorbike ride along a barely defined track beneath the nurturing eye of the deepest, wildest coastal jungle canopy I have ever witnessed. For me conjuring up aspiratory childhood images of David Attenborough in remote fragile ecosystems. Crossing creeks with sideways leaning crocodile warning signs at half-mast. Delicately riding over the interstitial organisms of a bleached coral beach to venture further along the coast. And the final 10 minute walk to realise that the point where the distant reef appeared to bend, where the swell appeared to have shape, where the size appeared well overhead, were all in fact a reality. Not a long anticipated swell that never eventuates, but reality.
Although the previous 2 days were saturated with fever and restlessness, and the 2 days ahead would consist of intense thirst, no thirst, and mental degradation, the present was a beautiful reality to be lived, and lived repeatedly. Lived with the sensation of each weight shift, the sensation of effortless speed, and sensory bouts of explosive energy release.
For my hard paddling clients like Body Glove’s Anthony Walsh, or any other hard paddling surfer the space between the shoulder blades in the upper back is one of the toughest areas of the body to stretch. The muscles situated here are referred to as the rhomboids, and are used or contracted repeatedly when we paddle. Over time if this muscle continues to tighten without being re-lengthened the result is increased pressure on the joints of the middle spine and increased likelihood of neck stiffness and pain. Below is a stretch that I created out of necessity in 2011, on day 3 of a Mexican sand point camping adventure, a little southwest of Barra De La Cruz. I hope you enjoy it.
Upper Back Stretch in Long Sitting
Place a blanket or pillow under your buttock and straighten both legs in front (Long sitting). If you cannot comfortably maintain a straight spine fold your blanket over a second time or place a second pillow underneath your buttock.
Bend your knee to take the left foot 1-2 foot lengths towards the chest. Keep the heel in line with the hip.
Take hold of the outside of your left foot with the right hand. Twist/rotate your torso and chest to the left.
Take your left hand behind you to assist with balance.
Exhale keep hold of the outside of the left foot and press the foot towards the floor (As if you are pressing your foot down on an accelerator peddle). Keep your upper body/torso relatively still and hollow/round the chest during this foot movement.
You should feel a stretch between the right shoulder blade in the upper back and the spine.
Inhale bring the foot back to the starting position to ease the stretch.
Repeat this cycle 10 times each side.
I look forward to seeing you on the mat, or in the water!
Ryan Huxley is the co-founder and program creator at Surfbodysoul, a website that provides safe, effective, holistic, scientific e-book exercise programs catering for surfers of all age, level and experience. Ryan is a qualified Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist, Advanced Yoga and Pilates instructor. His list of pro surfing clients includes Fergal Smith, Chippa Wilson, Anthony Walsh, Paige Hareb, Emi Cataldi & Rusty Miller.