Many things can cause pain and tension to build up in the neck and shoulders. The most common in modern society include sitting at a desk all day, hunching over the steering wheel and smart phones, and stress and anxiety, which can cause us to unconsciously clench our muscles around the neck, jaw, and shoulders. If you tend to carry stress in these areas, yoga can absolutely help! Here are three of the best stretches to target and release those sore spots.
Side-to-Side Neck Tilt
Find a comfortable seated position that allows you to keep your back straight. This could be cross-legged on the floor, or sitting up straight in a chair. Take a few moments to breathe deeply through the nose, and try to relax your neck and shoulders.
When you’re ready, tilt your head to the right side until you feel a stretch, being careful to keep your right shoulder relaxed and down. Take three deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Tilt your head back to the right, and then deepen the stretch by using your right hand to gently press down on the area above your left ear. Again, hold for three breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Chin-to-Chest Neck Stretch
Stay in your tall and comfortable seated posture from the previous exercise. Slowly lower your chin toward your chest, remembering to keep your shoulders relaxed and down. As you do this, imagine you are holding a fragile egg in between your chin and throat that you don’t want to crush.
You should feel a stretch along the back of your neck and where your neck connects with your shoulders. Take three deep breaths through the nose, and continue to focus on consciously relaxing the neck and shoulders.
Return your neck to a neutral position, take three more deep breaths, and then bring your neck toward your chest again, this time using your hands to apply gentle pressure to the uppermost part of the back of your head. Take five more deep breaths here, and then return your head to a neutral position.
This stretch is great for both relaxing your neck and relieving tension in the shoulders.
From a standing position, bend forward and place your forearms on the wall in front of you, parallel to one another. The palms of your hands are flat on the wall, fingers pointing up. Your elbows will be shoulder-width apart, slightly higher than the height of your hips. Adjust your feet by taking a few steps back if needed. When you find a comfortable yet deep stretch in your shoulders, relax your neck, allowing it to hang down between your arms.
Take 5-10 deep breaths through the nose in this position.
All three of these simple exercises are highly effective, gentle, and can be performed just about anywhere. All you need is a chair and a wall!
-The Alternative Daily