By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Where does shoulder tension come from? Whether it is from sitting at the computer all day, a difficult workout routine or just day-to-day activity and stressors, many people hold tension in their shoulders. It may feel like the side of the neck is actually getting shorter. In fact, it is often the levator scapulae, the muscle that attaches the shoulder blades to the neck, tensing up and pulling in an uncomfortable manner. However, this tension can be alleviated and eliminated through a Yoga routine.
Yogic Breathing – Pranayama
The breathing pattern changes when people are experiencing physical or mental stress. The breathing usually becomes more shallow and tense. Instead of breathing from the belly, people will start to take quick breaths from the upper chest. The result is oxygen deprived muscles, which tire quickly and tense up often.
While this will eventually occur to all the muscles in the body, it is especially true for the muscles in the chest, and shoulders, because they are used for this improper breathing technique. By changing the breathing pattern through Yogic breathing (pranayama), even for just a half an hour a day, those muscles will receive a break. With regular Yoga practice, the body can also retrain itself to breathe this way throughout the day.
Yoga Posturing – Asana
Yoga poses (asanas) work to release tension in the shoulders in a couple of different ways. First, specific Yoga poses stretch the muscles around the shoulders. By stretching the muscles, the shoulders can return to their original state of relaxation, and even gain some extra length, to prevent future tension. Postures, which will relax the muscles in the shoulder area, are Extended Child’s Pose, Half Downward Dog Pose, and Ardha Utkatasana (Half Chair Pose).
Strengthening types of Yoga asanas, such as Downward Dog Pose and Dolphin Pose, balance and stabilize the muscles around the shoulders. By strengthening the muscles, injuries can be prevented. Sometimes, people experience pain in their neck and shoulders and attribute it to stress, when it is actually a tear or joint problem. In such a case, medical advice should be sought. Non-surgical solutions may be possible, but one cannot forcefully exercise through joint problems.
Those, with chronic shoulder tension, can benefit greatly from incorporating Yoga into their daily routine. Some choose to take time out of their day to do a complete session before or after work, while others perform various postures throughout the day. Over time, Hatha Yoga practice will create a noticeable difference in the flexibility and strength within the neck and shoulders. With a little more awareness, one will improve overall posture, which will, in turn, reduce pains and aches.
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