By Faye Martins
Anatomy is such an important part of hatha yoga instructor training. As you learn in Yoga teacher training, the neck is the most fragile part of the spine. The neck supports the weight of the head during the hours we are awake. When you consider our skeletal structure, it’s a wonder that many of us are lucky enough to have pain free days. Luckily, you have learned enough about Yoga to help others have many more pain free days.
Causes of Pain
If you’ve ever slept in an awkward position, craned your neck to view a show or experienced trauma to the neck, you know how debilitating neck pain can be. Chronic pain can take over every aspect of your life, making daily routines and responsibilities difficult. When the pain takes over, it can be hard to focus on anything else. There are a number of therapeutic yoga poses that can relieve neck pain or even prevent it from coming back.
Neck pain can also be the result of poor posture. As people spend increasing amounts of time in front of computers, sitting at desks or driving, the head and shoulders tend to fall forward and the shoulders become rounded, causing strain in the back and cervical spine. When we sit with a straight spine and aligned hips and shoulders, the body distributes the weight evenly and none of the muscles become strained. Yoga helps to improve posture and alignment, which can then eliminate or lessen neck pain.
Deep Breathing Pranayama
Many of us forget how important breathing is to the body because it happens naturally. However, when we don’t put any conscious effort into our breath, the result can be quick, shallow breaths that contract the neck muscles instead of the diaphragm. To release neck tension, sit in a comfortable position and take a deep breath through the nose. Allow the entire abdomen and chest cavity to balloon out with air. Keep the shoulders down and the spine straight. Exhale slowly through the mouth by pulling the belly button in toward the spine.
Arms Overhead with Strap
Stand tall with your feet hip width apart. Raise your arms above your head, holding a strap between both hands. Make sure your palms are facing out. Keep your arms about shoulder width apart or wider if your elbows are not straight. Pull the chin toward the chest and hold for six deep breaths.
Controlled Neck Rolls
Slowly work the tension out of the cervical spine by dropping one ear to the shoulder. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you roll the head down and up again to the opposite side. Continue by slowly rolling the head forward and over to the side you started on. Continue in the same direction for several slow rolls, and then change direction like a pendulum. Create a rhythm with your breath by exhaling when the chin is pointing toward the chest and inhaling when the chin points up on the left or right side.
Neck Roll Precaution
Never practice neck rolls with the head tilted backward. This puts vertebrae in a compressed position, which locks them in place and grinds them back and forth. Needless to say, this can cause premature wear of your cervical spine.
Notes for Yoga Teachers
As many of you learned in yoga teacher training – do not physically adjust the neck. Chiropractors physically adjust necks, but a yoga instructor can give verbal correction. Help Yoga students warm up or extend the cervical spine, but do not speculate as to the cause of discomfort. Always advise Yoga students to see a physician.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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