Considering the influx of degenerative neck disease caused by poor alignment due to using portable tech devices like cell phones and tablets, now’s the time to start taking care of this ailing area of our bodies. No matter the exact cause, yoga is a great way to not only prevent, but also help reverse this dangerous repetitive strain injury.
Here are some of the best exercises to strengthen, stretch and promote healthy alignment in your neck and shoulders. Be sure to commit to nailing proper form, and go at your own pace, holding each pose for 8-10 breaths and going through the flow 1-3 times. It’s also a good idea to dress comfortably, in workout gear that makes you feel good about yourself. Half the battle to starting – and sticking with – any exercise regime comes down to confidence!
Thread the Needle
This pose, also known as reverse Child’s pose, opens the shoulders beautifully. Easy to do and insanely beneficial for your upper body mobility, Thread the Needle will be the cornerstone of your neck and shoulder yoga routine.
Tips: Concentrate on your breathing! Since your upper body will be twisted in this pose, compressing your chest, you may want to hold your breath or only breathe shallowly. Don’t! Full breaths in and full breaths out.
Ear to Shoulder Stretch
Even if you’ve never done yoga, chances are you’ve done this stretch. Ear to shoulder will elongate and stretch muscles that tilt and rotate your noggin, making this a particularly awesome exercise if you sit for long periods – and you can do it sitting, so no excuses!
Tips: Move slowly, gently and deliberately. Don’t jerk your head from side to side or rush the rotation.
Here’s another old school exercise that you’ll also find in your yoga class. Shoulder rolls promote healthy rotator cuffs, and increase joint mobility, strength and range. They’re also fantastic for improving posture.
Tips: Make sure you’re standing up absolutely straight before you begin. This will insure you’re building from a solid foundation, while also making sure you’re getting all the benefits of the exercise.
The ever popular cat/cow combo has come by its solid reputation for good reason: it hits a lot of areas, in a relatively simple sequence. Your neck, shoulders, chest, spine, lower back and hips will all enjoy increased flexibility for this movement.
Tips: Inhale with cow (as you arch your back and gaze towards the sky) and exhale as you move to cat (as you tuck your chin to chest, round your back and tuck your tailbone under.)
Seated Twist Pose
Increase spinal flexibility, massage your organs and foster side-to-side neck flexibility with this powerful pose. Be sure to do it for equal breaths on each side to promote left-to-right body balance and alignment.
Tips: Really focus on reaching the top of your head to the sky – almost like it’s being pulled up by a string. Also be sure to mindfully twist your body – don’t just throw it into position! One more thing: you don’t have to draw up the straightened leg if you find it uncomfortable. Work within your limits.
Probably the ultimate restorative posture, Corpse pose will help align your neck and spine, open your chest and relax your shoulders – all while you just lie there. Pretty awesome, right?
Tips: Be sure to fully let go in this posture.. From head to toes, focus on mindfully releasing all the tension, inch by inch, muscle by muscle.
Six simple yoga poses, dozens of benefits for your neck and shoulders. Even running through these exercises a few times a week will garner almost instantly noticeable benefits – though there’s no harm in doing them every day. It’ll take you less than 10 minutes to go through the entire routine even once, and your body will thank you. (For best results, go through the flow 2-3 times!)
Note: Check with your healthcare professional if you have injury or strains, and/or if you have not exercised before.