By Chavda Ankur (Master Anant)
Senior Yoga Teacher
[Yoga Prachar Ratana (awarded by H.E Governer of Gujarat, India)]
Most of the time, we are not conscious of the alignment of our body when it comes to the way we sit, stand and do things. In an age when many of us are sitting in front of a computer for long periods with a hunched and rounded spine or craning our necks engrossed with our mobile phones, poor posture can cause tightness around the neck and shoulders. Besides poor sitting and standing postures, stress can cause the muscles around the neck to tense up. If the tension is not released, it can lead to chronic pain in the long run.
Yoga practice will help to correct your body’s alignment and ease unnecessary tension from your neck and shoulders. It also helps to reduce stress, reduce inflammation and increase movement in the neck and bring balance back to your body. Here are a few simple yoga poses you can practice to keep your neck and shoulders pain-free.
This is a popular and well-known stretch for relieving neck tension.
First, ensure that you are in a comfortable sitting position with your hands resting on your knees. Sit upright and relax your shoulders, then push your chin against your chest to straighten your spine. Next, gently roll your head to the right or left until your ear touches your shoulder - you can use one hand to gently pull your head toward your shoulder, and the other to slowly push your opposite shoulder in other direction. Slowly roll your head back to the centre and then repeat on the opposite side. You will feel the stretch in your neck muscles.
Another beginner’s pose, this is extremely good for people with tight shoulders or pain between the shoulder blades. Stand upright and fold your right hand behind your back, then fold your left hand behind your back as you reach both hands. Clasp both palms together as you draw your elbows towards the centre of your back. For an extra stretch to your neck while doing this, tuck your chin into your chest as much as you can. You can adjust according to your tightness. If you are not able to lock your palms together, you can use a yoga belt to hold your arms. Repeat on the opposite side.
Start with a tabletop position, keeping your spine neutral, wrists shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart. As you inhale, arch your back, drop your belly towards the floor, and look towards the ceiling (cow pose). Then exhale and tuck your chin into your chest, pulling your tailback bone under and round the back and shoulders (cat pose). Repeat for about eight breaths. Combining the cat and cow poses provides a good stretch to the shoulders, chest, neck, lower back and spinal column. This is one of the simplest yoga poses for alleviating neck and shoulder discomfort.
Now, put these three poses together and follow Master Anant in his 30-minute Yoga class for neck and shoulder relief:
Deep breathing (lungs) – 5 min
Shoulder stretch with towel / counter pose – 10 min with 1 min rest
@: Lateral stretch – 5 min
@: Full shoulder, arm rotation – 5 min
Shoulder socket rotation with bending elbows – 3 min with 30 sec rest
Half plank pose variation – 3 min with 30 sec rest
Hand clasp behind back (Gaumukhasana) with janu sirsasana – 5 min with 1min rest
Neck half circle rotation – 3 min with 30 sec rest
Ear to shoulder/neck rolls – 3 min with 30 sec rest
Neck forward stretch – 2 min with 30 sec rest
Massage with a tennis ball – 10 min
Savasana, relaxation pose – 5 min
These poses are so simple to do and can be done wherever you are – at home or at the gym. To learn about our yoga classes or to join a class, visit our Timetable page.