One of the most common discomforts that present at our yoga classes is a stiff and sore neck.
Why do our necks get sore? Think of the hard work they do ALL DAY LONG – holding up our heavy heads. Stress, poor posture, accidents, and long-stored physiological tension can all contribute to a mild stiff neck or even a full-blown muscle spasm. Add to this the hours we spend sitting in front of our computers and hunched over our digital devices. The repetitive movement patterns these demand also cause neck and shoulder strain.
Yoga can help with all that! Learning to move in ways that realign our posture helps release that tension and promotes more functional movement patterns. And simple stretches open up the constricted areas so energy flows freely.
Two common sense daily actions will help keep the neck muscles supple and relaxed so the tension doesn’t build up leading to a SORE NECK CRISIS.
1. Stand and sit up straight. Good posture and proper alignment prevent a host of musculoskeletal and energetic issues that rounded shoulders, slumped spine, and over extended neck cause.
2. Move your neck through its full range of motion every day. The muscles, bones, and connective tissue in our necks want to move and remain flexible as we age. The simple act of moving our neck forward and back, side to side, and in circles gives this important part of our body the attention and love it needs.
Movements that reduce neck muscle tension are simple:
1. Move the head in all 6 directions slowly, and with conscious breathing:
- nodding NO (looking over each shoulder)
- nodding YES (following chin to the chest and to the sky)
- nodding MAYBE (each ear tipped down to its shoulder)
2. Shoulder rolls, forward and back
3. Shoulder see-saw - inhale, raise your right shoulder as high as you can, while lowering your left. When exhaling, lower your right shoulder and raise your left. Coordinate your shoulder shrugs with your inhale and exhale for up to two minutes.
Asana (yoga poses) that improve posture and alignment feel good to do and have lasting positive effects:
1. Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Marjariasana (Cat Pose):
Cow-Cat pose is a gentle up-and-down flowing posture that brings flexibility to the entire spine. It stretches and lengthens the back torso and neck. It’s a wonderful and easy movement to open and create space through the entire neck.
2. Balasana: Child’s pose is a deeply restorative pose that can be very relaxing for the neck and back. It can also help to reduce stress, anxiety, and mental tension.
3. Ardha Matsyendrasana
The seated twist is a wonderful pose to bring flexibility to the entire spinal column. It provides an inner massage to the abdominal organs and encourages side-to-side flexibility of the neck.
4. Arm Across Chest Pose
Sit comfortably on the floor or on a chair with your spine straight, neck elongated, and shoulders in a relaxed position. Reach the right arm out so it is at shoulder height and bring it across the chest toward the left side of your body. Turn your gaze to look over your right shoulder. This pose will stretch the neck and back of the shoulders. Hold for approximately 8-10 breaths then switch sides.
4. Viparita Karani (Legs Against the Wall Pose)
These movements and poses will help avoid a sore neck by keeping the neck muscles toned and relaxed, or manage a stiff or sore neck should it occur. So consider incorporating them into your life – and gaze around your world in comfort.