Welcome to our new blog series, Aum Improvements. We’re not promising yoga can solve all of life’s problems, like global warming or your neighbor’s annoying dog, but it sure can help with the things that make us human and give us trouble on a daily basis, like busy minds, creaky joints, existential crisis, and that one coworker who never stops talking.
So, if you’re looking for a little more zen in your life, and maybe even a few laughs along the way, then join us on this Aum Improvement journey.
*que well-branded intro with catchy theme song*
Let’s face it, neck pain is a real pain in the neck. It can strike at any moment, whether you’re sleeping, sitting, standing, or doing some weird contortionist pose that you thought would be good for your posture. And let’s not forget about the joys of waking up with a stiff neck that makes you look like you’re auditioning for a role in “The Walking Dead.” ?♂️
Most of us deal with it, and if you’ve read this far, something tells me you can relate. I understand your pain (literally). But where does it come from?
The funny thing about neck pain (which really isn’t that funny) is that it’s not typically triggered by one thing, but rather a multitude of things at any given time.
Smartphones and other electronic devices have a chokehold on our posture. Whether we’re texting, scrolling through the gram, or watching videos, our necks are in a perpetual state of flexion.
Stress can cause all sorts of physical symptoms, and neck pain is no exception. When we’re stressed, our muscles tend to tense up, and that tension can manifest itself as neck pain.
A lack of exercise or poor form can weaken our muscles, making us more susceptible to pain and injury. Plus, if we’re moving our bodies less, we’re more likely to adopt poor posture habits.
Thankfully, we’re not totally doomed. Why? Because we’ve got yoga. You’ve heard it a million times, there are endless physical and mental health benefits from yoga. It strengthens your body. It builds muscle memory. It drowns out the bullshit (when you allow it to) so you can focus on the present moment and not stress about tomorrow’s chaos or yesterday’s story.
Poor posture? Yoga’s got you.
Weak muscles? Yoga’s got you.
Stressed out? Yoga’s still got you! ?
Three Quick Practices for your Back Pocket
1. Cat-Cow Stretches increase the flexibility of your neck (zinger!), shoulders, and spine. These poses also stretch the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen, and chest, and release tension in the neck and upper back.
How to: Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale as you arch your back and lift your head, then exhale as you round your spine and drop your head. Repeat for several breaths, moving slowly and smoothly.
2. Shoulder Rolls are an excellent way to quickly adjust that Quasimodo-lookin back, because they require you to put your body in a posturally correct position to loosen and lengthen tight muscles in the neck and upper back.
How to: Sit cross-legged on the floor or in a chair, with your hands on your knees. Inhale as you lift your shoulders up towards your ears, then exhale as you roll them back and down towards the floor. Repeat for several breaths, moving in a smooth, circular motion.
3. Head Rolls are a simple and effective exercise that can literally be done anywhere. Not only do they stretch the neck and cervical spine, and improve upper body stability, range of motion, and flexibility, but they’re such a quick and easy way to slow your mind.
How to: Stand or sit with your shoulders stacked directly over your hips. Inhale as you lengthen through the crown of your head, then exhale slowly lowering your right ear to your right shoulder. Hold here for three full breaths, and with each exhale, feel your left side neck slowly lengthen more and more. Don’t force it. Just let the weight of your noggin do the job. Repeat on the other side, moving slowly and smoothly. And if you’re feeling spicy, you can incorporate a chin tuck in between transitions to release tension in the back of your neck.
Next time you’re feeling down or frustrated about neck pain, try out these quick practices, and if you can’t be bothered, that’s fine too. Just remember, you’re not alone in the neck pain struggle – it is the great equalizer. Until next time, keep your chin up (and shoulders back).