Windmill stretch is a great thoracic mobilisation movement. The thoracic spine is the longest part of the spine with 12 vertebra and the ribcage connecting along its length. Windmill Stretch uses breathing and repeated movements to gently restore rotation to this often stiff and neglected area of the spine. Lack of mobility in the thoracic spine can also be associated with neck pain. Windmill Stretch is perfect if your day involves a lot of sitting, often hunched, at your desk because of its ability to stretch out and mobilise the chest (pectoral) muscles.
- in side lying, knees on top of each other and bent to 90°, directly in front of hips,
- your shoulder and ear should line up with hips,
- a pillow (or 2) under your head for support, so that your neck is in a neutral position ie lined up horizontally with the thoracic spine,
- arms stretched out in front of shoulders or lower arm can be bent as shown above,
- roller is parallel to the body and under the palm of the outstretched upper hand.
- gently reach forward by using your shoulder blade (protraction), rolling the roller forward a little,
- retract back, again by using the shoulder blade,
- then, keeping elbow straight, lift hand off the roller and sweep arm up and over to reach behind the body, palm facing upwards,
- you are trying to get the hand to the floor, or if that is easy, trying to get the upper shoulder blade near the floor,
- bring the arm back up and over, keeping hand in line with shoulder,
- repeat the same process x 6-10,
- with the last repetition, hold the outstretched position behind the body and breathe in deeply, then breathe out deeply and then move your hand and arm slightly further into range.
- repeat on the other side.
- Your head can follow your hand movement or it can stay facing forward; choose what is comfortable,
- if the stretch at the pecs is too strong or uncomfortable, bend the elbow as it leaves the roller and keep the palm of the hand close to the body, near the ribcage, and try to move upper shoulder blade only closer to the floor with each repetition ( known as a bow and arrow movement).
- try not to let the top knee move from the bottom knee, keep them squeezed together,
- you should do normal breathes into the diaphragm throughout; adding a deep breath at the end of your repetitions, to improve your range.