Do you have stiffness in your spine, or muscle tension in your neck or back? I am happy to introduce the ChiBall to Nose Creek Physiotherapy and share the benefits of this small but amazingly effective tool for releasing stress and tension from your spine. I happened on a ChiBall class in Australia about 20 years ago, and was blown away with the significant increased awareness through movement that occurred in combination with this small magical ball. It was clear that we can learn movement patterns more quickly and with more ease when focussing on moving the ball, rather than a body part.
Since then I have been using and bringing this ball here from Australia so that Canadians can also enjoy the benefits of ChiBall.
With winter on its way and the Christmas season soon upon us, this is a good time to get on the ChiBall, as we often develop muscle tension as a result of external stresses such as financial pressures and the logistics of managing family gatherings at this time of year.
What is a ChiBall?
A ChiBall is a small, colorful, soft rubber ball, infused with aromatherapy essential oil. It is about 6 inches in diameter when fully inflated and may be deflated by simply pulling out the plug and squeezing the air out to a level that suits your particular spinal flexibility. This allows for variations in spinal stiffness, and also makes the ChiBall very easy to take with you anywhere you go.
Based on traditional Chinese medicine, ChiBall is so called because of its connection with “Chi”, which is the energy force that is a key component and belief of this ancient philosophy. The ChiBall is an excellent tool for self massage and relaxation, achieved by simply placing it under your head or back during floor exercises. When using the ChiBall while you exercise and stretch, you can also help your chi, or energy force, to move around your body which helps to balance your mind and body. Put simply: it helps us to relax and calm our busy minds.
Why, and who should do ChiBall?
Chronic back and neck pain are the most common complaints of the general population. Stress and poor postural habits caused by long periods of sitting are considered to be prime causes.
Using the ChiBall facilitates movement patterns and creates body awareness that has often been left behind for many of us. In our busy lives, most of us have forgotten how to move like our spines were designed: freely and with stability. The ball also helps reintroduce into exercise the idea of playfulness, which helps us to relax.
There are many ways of using the ChiBall, and the benefits are enormous. Anyone can use the ChiBall as it is safe and is very pliable which means increased comfort and less risk to you.
- Helps to release muscular tension from the neck, middle and low back areas
- Improves flexibility of the spine
- Strengthens the postural muscles that often become weak with poor posture
- Facilitates movement patterns and improves body awareness
- Mobilizes the rib cage to enhance breathing technique
- Helps to activate and tone the abdominal muscles
- Stimulates the chi (vital energy) in the body
- Brings harmony to the body, mind and spirit
The ChiBall is ideal for all ages, and especially anyone with stiffness or tension in their spine. It is particularly useful for office workers or if you sit for prolonged periods of time. It is great for prevention of back pain, osteoporosis and arthritis.
Here are 3 key exercises to help release muscle tension. These exercises should feel comfortable and relaxing, and are a wonderful way to decrease stress and tension in the entire spine.
1. Lower Back Release: Pelvic Tilts
- Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your pelvis off the floor and place the ChiBall under the sacrum. This is the flat bone just below the lower back area.
- Inhale and let your lower body fall over the ChiBall so that the back arches gently.
- Exhale, then “send the ball away from you”, reversing that movement so that your lower back flattens or rounds slightly. Try to use your abdominal muscles to initiate this movement, not your gluts or legs.
- Repeat this motion back and forth in a comfortable range that does not cause pain, and continue to breathe with each movement. Do 20-25 times.
2. Mid Back Release
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place the ChiBall in the middle of your back (thoracic spine), or just below the shoulder blades. You will want to decrease the air volume in the ChiBall if your spine is stiffer. You can also use a pillow to support your neck if you need to.
- Hug yourself gently, and begin to roll to one side with your upper body. Keep your lower body still.
- Repeat several times, breathing in to raise the body onto the ChiBall, and breathing out to roll to the side. You should feel like you are releasing tension as you roll and exhale.
- Begin with 10-15 repetitions.
3. Neck Release: Chin Tucks
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place the ChiBall at the base of the head so you are gazing at the ceiling above you (avoid placing the ball in the middle of your neck which can make your head drop backwards).
- Breathe in, and as you breathe out, nod your head gently and feel like you are “rolling” the ball away from you, just like you did with the pelvic tilts.
- Your chin should gently tuck under, and you should feel the back of your neck lengthen
- Keep your head heavy for this exercise.
- Inhale and relax the neck, letting the ball “roll” back to the start position. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Be aware of any pain that you might have, and only move into the range of motion that is comfortable.
Remember these exercises should feel comfortable and relaxing. Make time to treat your body this Christmas season, so you can get through it feeling balanced and more able to handle any stresses that come at you.
Come and see us at Nose Creek for more exercises or to purchase a ChiBall for friends and family who might need to experience the benefits for themselves. If you are experiencing chronic spinal pain that is not tolerating Manual Therapy, you need to try some ChiBall exercises with Kathy at our Beddington Office. Call today at 403.295.8590, you will not regret it.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year!
Blair balances his busy professional life by staying active. He enjoys cycling, swimming, working out, hiking, camping and snowboarding, depending on the season. Blair shares his free time with his wife, son and daughter outside on the weekends. He has learned to enjoy the journey, as life really is too short.
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