Whoever you are and whatever you do, it’s likely that you spend a substantial part of your day looking down at some sort of device. From working on your laptop, checking your social media notifications, to catching up on your favourite Netflix series, we all invite neck pain due to how much time we spend with our necks in this unnatural position.
Neck pain comes as a result of the misalignment of our spines and the weight of our tilted heads bearing upon our necks. Luckily for us, yoga provides excellent poses that not only provide relief from the neck pains we might be forced to endure but also help us avoid them entirely by strengthening our muscles and correcting our posture.
Read on to find the relief you seek with these simple yoga poses.
The Neck Stretch
This is the simplest yoga pose designed to specifically target the neck. Neck pain comes as a result of strained neck muscles, and so by simply stretching and lengthening these muscles, we may alleviate the pain that troubles us.
How it works: Begin from a seated position, making sure that you are comfortable. You may choose to sit in a chair or directly on the floor. Make an effort to align the top of your head with your shoulders, down through to your hips. You will find that your entire body is lengthened as you sit up tall.
Keeping this posture, move your right arm behind you to take hold of the bicep of your left arm. Should this be difficult for you, you can wrap a towel around your left arm and grab on to that instead. Let your left arm rest easily on your lap as you relax your shoulders so that they slope down away from your ears.
Take a deep breath as you extend your head towards the ceiling, then breathe out as you gently let your left ear tilt down to your left shoulder. Keep your shoulders relaxed and soften your jaw so that the extension runs right through the right side of your neck. Experiment with turning your chin up or down so that you find which angle works out best for you.
Hold this position for five to ten deep breaths then proceed to repeat the process for the other side of your neck.
Forward Fold and Neck Stretch
By making use of gravity to pull down the weight of your torso and head you can release some of the tension built up in your shoulders and neck as it lengthens the cervical spine. This is the concept behind the forward fold with neck stretch pose.
How it works: Start with your feet spaced about hip-distance apart and bend forward at the hips so that you fold in half. You are free to bend your knees here, but try to bend as far as possible. Allow gravity to work on your body and pull down your head and torso.
Go on to interlace your fingers and place them at the back of your head, leaving their weight to be carried by your neck muscles. Do not actively push down with your hands – the idea is to let gravity work its magic. Hold this pose for about one minute.
Supported Fish Pose
This is another great pose for dealing with neck pain as it directly counteracts the harmful effects of our poor postures. It is designed to open up our shoulders and chest region.
How it works: Lay back over a rolled-up yoga mat, blanket, yoga wheel, or even a stack of books.
Place your object of choice below your thoracic spine region with the object’s bottom just touching the bottom tips of your shoulder so that your chest is expanded outwards towards the ceiling.
You may allow your hands to freely lay beside your hips or open them wide to make a T-shape, or you can even raise them above your head. All these positions will give different parts of your pectoral muscles a bit of a stretch, so choose whichever you like best.
Go on to completely relax your body so that all your weight is supported by the object underneath you. Hold the pose for around three to five minutes, and keep breathing deeply and steadily throughout.
Stretching is an important tool in the fight against neck pain, but strengthening poses also have an important role to play here. The Dolphin pose works well to stretch as well as strengthen the muscles that surround your neck and support it. This provides a stable base for your head so that it may rest in proper alignment and so avoid any possible neck pains.
How it works: Begin by getting down onto your hands and knees (tabletop position). Bring your forearms down to the floor so that your elbows and palms are directly on the ground. Take care that your arms are shoulder-width apart.
Now, tuck in the toes of your feet and lift your knees from the mat. Walk up slowly so that you start getting into an arch-shape (somewhat like the downward-facing dog position) but with your entire forearms on the floor rather than your palms alone. Get your feet as close to your elbows as you can manage, ad note that you can bend your knees if you need to.
Maintain pressure on your forearms as they rest against the floor, expanding your chest towards your thighs. Keep the weight of your head hanging freely as gravity pulls it downwards. Hold the pose for five to ten deep and steady breaths.
Before you perform…
While these stretches and poses might be great at eliminating neck pain, it is good to remember that prevention is always better than cure. Proper posture greatly diminishes the chances of experiencing neck pain, so you don’t have to wait until you are in pain before trying out these poses. Remember that your safety always comes first, so consult with your doctor before you begin any new exercise regimen, especially if you experience severe or constant pain in your neck.