Yin Yoga for the Neck
By Bernie Clark • April 7th, 2011 • 12850 Views
We carry a lot of stress in the neck and shoulder area, especially people who spend great swaths of time typing or working with their hands. Tight neck and shoulder muscles can lead to headaches and shallow breathing. Chronically tight necks can lead to shortened ligaments and a very restricted range of motion for the neck.1
We can work the neck in 6 main directions while sitting in several different Yin Yoga postures.2 In fact most of the poses offered for the upper body can be done while sitting in Shoelace, Square, Straddle, in Toe Squat, or while sitting with legs comfortably crossed. Sitting in various poses while we target the upper body gives us the added benefit of working our hips and/or legs as well, so let's try the poses listed below while in the basic Shoelace position. The main caution here is - if you have any neck issues already, don't try these until you have checked with your health care provider. The neck is not as strong as the rest of the spine, and while for most people there is no problem at all doing these poses, for some people this will not be good for them.
Lateral (Side) Flexion
Sit up on a cushion in the Shoelace posture. Keep the spine nice and long, including the neck. Now simply drop your right ear to the right shoulder. The three principles of the practice still apply: find a nice edge where you are feeling some stress to the side of the neck away from the shoulder you are leaning towards. Become still. Stay for a 1 or 2 minutes: work up to longer stays over time. If the edge starts to move, allow your ear to drop lower. Be cautious that you are not simply tilting your whole body, or worse, collapsing your spine. Keep sitting tall. If you would like a bit more stress, gently rest your right hand above your left ear to add a bit more weight: don't pull - just let the hand relax there. When you have had enough, use your right hand to push your head back to center and pause for a few breaths to allow the sensations to ebb away. Then try the other side.
Another option for increasing the stress of this lateral flexion to the cervical spine is to bring your other hand (in this case the left hand) behind your back....
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