For many people, the neck and shoulders are a chronic area of discomfort and a nagging pain in the neck. This is an area in which many carry their daily share of tension and frustration, and most find that once they think to release the tightness and tension it’s already taken over. Taking just three minutes once or twice a day could save your neck, shoulders and clenching jaw a whole lot of grief in just two quick moves.
Side neck stretch
- Sitting comfortably, lengthen the spine and relax your chin level with the floor.
- Exhale and tip the right ear to the right shoulder; work to feel space between your ear and shoulder.
- Continue to draw the left shoulder down from the left ear and flex the left palm, reaching through the heel of the hand toward the floor.
- With long, calm deep breaths, feel and visualize space in the tightness of the neck. Being gentle, experiment moving the left arm forward or back to help change the sensation to meet your needs.
- To heighten the sensation, take the right hand and gently draw the left side of the head away from the shoulder even more.
- Continue to breathe and explore moving the jaw and mindfully moving the chin up or down to change the sensation of the stretch from the side of the neck to the front or back of the neck.
The suggested time to hold these stretches is 10 breaths. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side, and repeat both several times a day.
Focus muscles: Scalene muscles (on the sides of the neck), trapezius (the upper back muscle feeding into the base of the skull) and levator scapulae (running from cervical vertebrae 1-4 to the inner scapulae, one on each side).
Back of the neck and spine stretch
- Sitting comfortably, interlace the fingers behind the base of the skull.
- Keeping the shoulders relaxed, exhale and drop the chin to the chest.
- Breathing calmly, resist the head into the clasped hands, working to broaden the upper back and draw the shoulder blades away from the spine.
- Continue to resist the head, keeping the chin to the chest; feel the shoulders drop away from the ears.
- Experiment rounding the upper back or moving the elbows up or down to shift the sensation from the neck to the mid upper back.
The suggested time to hold this stretch is 10 breaths.
Focus muscles: trapeizus and rhomboids (attach at thoracic vertebrae 2-5, run to each inner shoulder blade).
Much of the discomfort we feel in our hands, elbows and shoulders come from unresolved tension in the neck and shoulder girdle. Taking a bit of time to find relief each day could help you keep that 10-pound head of yours up with just a little less tension and a bit more smile!