Yoga for Neck Pain

Mar 23 22:13 2007 Nancy Wile Print This Article

Everyone gets a stiff neck sometimes.  Often yoga can help.  Of course, before you do anything, it’s important to know if your neck pain is the sign of something more serious. 

Yoga for Neck Pain

Everyone gets a stiff neck sometimes.  Often yoga can help.  Of course,Guest Posting before you do anything, it’s important to know if your neck pain is the sign of something more serious.  Make sure to see your doctor if:

  • Your neck pain persists for more than three days or keeps coming back.
  • You suffer from neck pain after a fall or accident.
  • Pain radiates from your neck down your arms or legs.
  • Neck pain is associated with nausea or dizziness.

Yoga Exercises for Neck Pain

If you determine you simply have a stiff neck, specific yoga exercises will help strengthen muscles and increase flexibility in the neck. Even gently exercising your neck helps lubricate and speed nutrients to the area. Here are a few exercises for your neck that are particularly helpful.

Neck Stretches

Follow these steps when practicing neck stretches:

  • Start in seated position (cross legged)
  • Sit up tall, reaching up through the top of the head
  • Draw shoulders back
  • Exhale, drop chin towards chest, keeping elbows and shoulders pulled back
  • Inhale, raise the head back to center
  • Do this five times, then on the last exhale, drop the chin and stay in this position for three breaths, breathing through the nose
  • Inhale, raise head back to center
  • Exhale, slowly drop right ear towards right shoulder
  • Inhale, raise head back to center
  • Do this five times, then on the last exhale, drop the ear towards the right shoulder and stay in this position for 3 breaths
  • Inhale, raise head back to center
  • Repeat on left side

Half-Circles

Rolling your head around in a full circle—as some people do to "loosen" their neck muscles—can actually cause more damage, so avoid it.  The neck is not a ball and socket joint and is not meant to move around in circles.  However, half circles in the front can be done instead.  To do this, first drop your chin to your chest.  Move your chin towards the right shoulder then back to your chest.  Then move your chin towards the left shoulder and back towards the chest.  Repeat this movement three to five times.

Shoulder Moves

Hunch your shoulders as high as possible, then let them relax completely.  Repeat this movement 5-6 times.  Next, roll your shoulders in a backwards circular motion (lifting shoulders up, squeezing them back, dropping them down and then bringing them forward again).  Repeat this motion 5-6 times, then move your shoulders in a forward circular motion.  All these shoulder movements help to relax the muscles in your neck and upper back.  Many of us hunch our shoulders unconsciously much of the time.  Notice how they feel when they are relaxed and try to keep them this way.

Chest Expander

Stand up with your feet close together.  Bring your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers.  Tuck your tailbone in, so you don’t arch your low back too much.  As you inhale, lift your hands away from your tailbone.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together and you lift your arms and stay in this position for 3-4 breaths.  On your next exhale, lower your arms back down.  This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in your upper back and relieve tension in your upper back and shoulders.

Arm Lifts

Bring your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing each other.  As you inhale, reach your arms overhead, bringing your arms next to your ears, if you can do so without any pain.  As you exhale, bring your arms back down in front of you.  Repeat 4-8 times.  This helps to relieve tension and build strength in the muscles in the upper back.

Press It

Place the palm of your hand against the back of your head and gently press while resisting with your head. Hold for a count of ten. Repeat with your palm on your forehead. Now place the palm of your right hand against the right side of your head and press, again resisting the movement with your head. Repeat on the left side.  This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in your neck and makes them less prone to strain.

Prevention is the Key

There are many things you can do in your every day life to prevent neck pain in the future.

1) Improve your posture

Sit and stand, so your head is properly aligned over your shoulders.  Many of us tend to drop our head to look down at what we are reading or writing or have our computer situated in a way that forces us to tip our head forward.  But, poor posture isn't just how you sit and stand.  It's how you hold your body when you function—moving, sitting, standing, bending or lifting.  It’s how you hold your body while you are active or inactive.  To maintain good posture: Sit up straight and tall, raise your chest up, relax your shoulders down and pull your head back so that your ears are directly over your shoulders, not in front of them.

2) Hold the phone

Rather than propping the phone between your head and shoulder—which can strain the soft tissues in your neck and the muscles in your upper back—hold the phone in your hand. Or better yet, buy a headset or speaker phone.

3) Check that pillow

The wrong pillow is a common cause of neck pain. But rather than taking someone else's advice, try different ones and find one that works best for you. Any cervical pillow that provides support to the neck ligaments can be very helpful. Avoid pillows that push your head forward.  You may also want to try a cervical roll, which is designed to slip under your neck while you’re sleeping, reducing strain on neck joints.

4) Make your workspace work for you

When you read or write at a desk, prop your books or papers up so your head doesn’t have to tilt down.  While typing at your computer, install a copy holder that's flush with the screen.  Keep your computer monitor at eye level.  At least once an hour, get up and walk around and stretch your neck and back.

5) Manage your stress

Pay attention to your stress level.  Excessive stress can lead to tight and knotted muscles, particularly in the neck and shoulders area.  Taking a yoga class is a great way to not only relieve stress, but to also learn how to manage your stress levels throughout the day.

Following these simple tips will help to keep your neck and upper back pain-free and functioning well.  To learn more tips and exercises to help your neck and upper back feel their best, visit: www.yogatg.com/ys-upperbackneck.html

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About Article Author

Nancy Wile
Nancy Wile

Nancy Wile, Ed.D. is the founder of Yoga To Go (www.yogatg.com) – a yoga organization that provides simple and effective yoga programs for busy people around the world – and the Yoga Education Institute (www.yogaeducationinstitute.com) – a yoga teacher training organization. 

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