Neck Like a SwanJun 21, 2021
In some cultures the neck is considered a symbol of wealth, beauty and status.
Physically and anatomically though the neck has a very important lifetime responsibility of carrying the head. On average the human head weighs between 4-5 kg and if we are misaligned it becomes even heavier.
The neck is the most important part of the spinal cord. There is a range of movement from the forward flexion (nodding of the head), extension (chin protrudes), side flexion (ear to shoulder) and turning of the head (circling).
Neck pain is very common and can be very debilitating. The cause can vary from something seemingly innocent like a sudden turn of the head, carrying a heavy bag and slouching over a mobile phone or laptop to a more serious disease like arthritis. Another major trigger is stress. Both, physical and emotional, will manifest in the neck that in turn will trigger headaches, migraines and tense muscles.
How can yoga help?
First and foremost, recognising how a healthy posture is key.
Tadasana (mountain pose) is a great posture to develop awareness and align the body.
Stand with the feet hip width apart and spread the toes. Feel your connection with the earth and a sense of grounding. Bring your awareness to your toes and knees and make sure they are facing forward and in line with ankles. Engage the legs and at the same time feel a gentle lift through the crown of the head, elongating the spine and neck.
Allow the arms to fall naturally by your side. Gently roll the shoulders back and away from the ears, bringing a sensation of firm softness within your stance.
Dandasana (staff pose) is a foundational seated pose.
Sit with your legs together and stretched out in front of you. Place your hands next to your hips on the floor. Flex your feet and extend out through the heels. Engage your thighs and actively press your sitting bones down. Slide your shoulder blades back and down along your spine. Bring your chin slightly back and down and keep the base of your neck soft.
Both the above postures will help you become aware of the neck’s position in relation to the spine and shoulders.
The following stretches can be done while seated or standing. Remember to move through all the stretches mindfully. Keep your moves slow and smooth. Sit or stand comfortably, shoulders and arms relaxed. If your neck muscles are very tense you may feel the shoulders creeping up towards the ears when moving the head. So, remember to breathe, move slowly and be aware of the body.
This is best done standing up.
- Raise your shoulders straight up and move them in a circle going forward. Do it 6 times.
- Return to the start position, and repeat another 6 circles, this time going backward.
- Turn your head to look over the left shoulder. Inhale through the transition and exhale to the right. Repeat 8 – 10 times
- Drop the chin towards the chest. Go as far as it is comfortable and remain there for a few breaths, noticing the stretching of the muscles at the back of the neck and across the shoulders. Slowly come back to the centre and repeat a few times.
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