Opening the Neck

Neck pain“The neck plays a significant role in our emotional life. Try communicating with this part of the bodyand listen for the kinesthetic feeling. The neck is the physical bridge between the body and the mind. For messages to be sent from one part to the other, they must move through the neck’s ‘post office’. Often news gets tied up here and stays stuck in the neck as tension, tightness, or even severe spasm. Whay the body feels and the mind thinks can get tied up in the neck, and the neck may not know how to process the information. Opening up the neck is like sending a relief crew to the main post office during the holiday rush.” ~From Yoga for Your Spiritual Muscles by Rachel Schaeffer

I usually start my classes with this pose if someone requests neck stretches. It’s an easy way to softly open your neck and create some traction in your spine.

Seated Side Neck Stretchneck1

  • Come to a comfortable seated position. Make sure the sitting bones are evenly rooting into the earth.
  • Lengthen through the crown of the head, sitting tall.
  • On an inhale take your right hand to your left ear. On an exhale, gentle draw your head to your right shoulder.
  • Keep the chin lifted and breathe for several rounds of breath.
  • To come out of the pose, release the hand and lift the head back to center. Repeat by placing the left hand on the right ear and drawing the head to the left.

Make sure to be mindful and gentle when doing any neck stretch. The cervical spine is delicate and should not be overly tugged or twisted. Work in stages to stretch your neck, less is often more for many of these poses. And as always, remember to breath to find space and opening in your entire body.

Forward Fold with Neck Lengthening

  • Walk your feet hips-width distance apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly and fold forward, hinging from your hips, let your hands dangle.
  • Take a few breaths to sway side to side opening up the hamstrings.
  • After a few rounds of breath, interlace your fingers at the base of your skull.
  • Next, gently draw your head toward the floor with your hands. This shouldn’t be a huge tug just a soft lengthening toward the ground.
  • Stay for a few breaths then release the hands and roll back up to standing one vertebrae at a time.

 neck5 Cat/Cow Pose is a very common pose used during the warm up portion of a class and one of my favorites for opening up the spine and neck.

  • To begin come to all fours. Place your shoulders over your wrists, spreading the fingers wide. Hips should be over the knees, toes untucked.
  • On an inhale, drop the belly, draw the heart through the arms and take the gaze skyward.
  • On your exhale, round the spine, puffing up the thoracic spine. Take your chin to your chest gazing at the navel.
  • Take several rounds on your own breaths. I like to close my eyes tuning into how my body feels. After a few rounds I also like to shift my hips side to side, alternating moving my neck in the opposite direction of my hips.

 neck4neck3

 

 

 

Thread the Needle

thread the needle

  • Come to all fours in Table Pose.
  • Reach the right hand/arm up toward the ceiling with an inhale.
  • Exhale as you slide the right hand between the left hand/arm and left knee all the way out to the left, bringing right shoulder and side of the head to rest comfortably on your mat.
  • Inhale reaching the left hand up towards the ceiling.
  • Breathe and hold for several breaths.
  • Exhale your palm back to the floor
  • Inhale back to Table pose.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Upper Back Stretch

This great stretch works on the neck and upper back muscles.

Stretch your arms out in front of you and rotate your hands until your palms face away from each other. You can put both of the back of your hand together or you can put your palms together, which ever is most comfortable. Then bend over at the upper back like you are diving off the diving board. Be sure and flex your head (chin to chest) at the same time! 

neck6