We store stress throughout our entire body, but for most of us, our neck takes the brunt of it. Fortunately, yoga can do wonders for neck pain and not only because it helps build strength and flexibility, but also because it helps us to develop better posture habits, even if we have a sedentary lifestyle.
The average human head weights between 15 and 21 pounds, so, as you can imagine, when we have poor posture, have bad head-neck alignment or are stressed, it makes the muscles of the neck and back work and compensate more than they should – it actually makes the muscles short and weak. This can lead to pain and tightness in the neck and upper back region, headaches, even arthritis and other not so pleasant muscle injuries.
Forcing your body to do anything in yoga that it is not ready for can result in serious injury. All it takes is a few centimeters the wrong way.
Chances are that if have (or have had) a desk job or stress in your life, you are going to show up to yoga with tight neck muscles (most of us do). You may not be able to bring the chin to the chest, bend the head back to look up or even turn the head from right to left to a great degree. These limitations are OK, you just have to learn to work with them.
Releasing tension and stress in the jaw, neck, shoulders and down the back is as important as sitting up straight. All we need to do is to take a few deep breathes and remind ourselves to relax and sit up right (remember strong, but soft). This goes for when we are doing yoga and in our everyday life.
Here are only a few exercises that could help. Remember to move slowly and deliberately and not beyond your boundaries.
Easy Pose: helps to balance the head evenly on top of the neck. Sit in comfortable cross-legged position with a straight spine, balancing the head evenly on top the neck.
Chin-to-chest: creates a long gentle stretch of the back of the neck. Inhale and as you exhale slowly lower your chin to your chest, creating a long, gentle stretch along the back of the neck. Take several slow, deep breaths with the chin down. Lift the head back up on an inhale. Repeat.
Ear-to-shoulder: creates a gentle stretch along the top of the shoulder and side of the neck. Inhale and exhale your head to toward one shoulder – eyes forward. Inhale and raise your head back up. Repeat on the other side.
Draw-a-necklace with your chin: creates a gentle stretch along the top of the shoulder and side of the neck. Inhale and draw a necklace with your chin from the middle of your chest toward right shoulder. Exhale come back to center. Repeat on the other side.
Before you know it you’ll be looking up at your fingertips while in triangle pose.