By Faye Martins
Yoga techniques for neck pain can be a “life saver.” Pain is a very serious negative distraction and distractions get in the way of living life to the fullest. Life is far too short to have negative things like back or neck pain, taking attention away from your free time. Yoga may be used to counter and correct both chronic and short-term neck problems.
We rarely give the neck much thought until it starts having problems but in truth the neck takes a real beating every day. The head itself can weigh up to 15 pounds and improper posture leads to that weight putting a heavy burden of stress on the neck. Having chronically poor posture puts an unnatural burden on the neck which slowly leads to injury since we often lean our heads forward towards computer screens, television screens and so on.
For those with neck pain and injuries, yoga is a wonderful conditioning practice, which will slowly, but surely, ease the pain and improve quality of life. With that said, it must be taken slowly. Neck injuries are best treated in a very slow manner over time since too much movement at once can lead to setbacks lasting several weeks. That’s not at all ideal.
The Shoulder Stand and Plow poses in yoga must be avoided at all costs if one is suffering from a neck injury. These two asanas pus such a supreme amount of weight and compression on the neck that it may actually flatten the cervical curve entirely, which is very bad news for an injured neck.
The first yoga technique for easing away neck problems is sitting in proper posture and breathing. Select a sturdy chair and sit on the front edge with back straight and hands folded over the core of the stomach. The feet should be in firm contact with the floor. Draw in a deep breath and straighten the posture further, feeling the breath deepen the pose.
Now, hold your conscious attention in the lower lungs and stomach and then bring it further up to the mid chest with each conscious breath. Now pull your conscious breathing and attention into the collarbone as you draw a deep, healing breath. Hold it for a second before releasing. Now draw the conscious attention into the neck itself and envision the breath being a healing force as it’s pulled through the nose, down the windpipe and into the lungs below.
If there is any tension in the body at this point, release it. Allow the shoulders to drop from the protective position they have likely assumed since the neck pain started. Slowly, pull the crown of the head higher, only so long as it is comfortable.
In this comfortable, safe place just sit and enjoy the pain free breathing. Breathe for a set of 10-15 deep, slow breaths and then release. The beauty of this technique is that it may be done almost anywhere. Any time tension and poor posture start creeping into your day, take a few minutes to perform the above technique. It will yield wonderful results.
The next technique is a little more challenging and must be taken slowly. At all times listen very carefully to your body. This technique is the Cat Cow pose combination, which together yields a gentle motion that will benefit the neck greatly.
Get down on the hands and knees with wrists directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips. Tighten and engage the core muscles of the stomach so that the spine is straighter and flatter than it would be otherwise. The end of the tailbone and the crown of the head should be almost on the same level.
Once you are fully comfortable, draw in a breath and lower the belly towards the floor, at the same time. Open the chest and slowly, carefully raise the head, taking care not to snap the head back. Inhale in this position and then while exhaling imagine pulling the bellybutton in against the spine and allow the back to round up like an angry cat. As the back is rounding, imagine an invisible string linking the base of the pelvis and the crown of the head together, drawing them close to each other. Take these movements slowly, taking care to not overtax the neck. Now phase back into the Cow position again. Repeat the Cat Cow pose 5-10 times; then rest.
Other poses that may prove helpful for neck problems include Child’s Pose, Downward Facing Dog and Cobra. While performing all of these poses special attention and emphasis should be placed on the neck. The slow, languid movements of these yoga poses will strengthen and lengthen the neck, making it stronger and easing the tension that leads to pain.
Daily yoga practice will help individuals maintain a full range of motion and proper posture, effectively treating existing injuries and preventing future ones all in one step.
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