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JEC

Neck Tension

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I do arm balances and inversions often..as well as sitting at a desk so I have a lot of tension in my neck.  Do I need to continue to just stretch and open the shoulders to help with this or is there something I can do to strengthen my neck?

 

OH and Candace I've seen your post "8 Poses for the Neck and Shoulders" ....that is helpful.

 

Thanks

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This may not be related at all to your neck tension, but do you sleep on your back or sleep on your side? If a side sleeper like myself, my physical therapist recommended sleeping with a neck pillow for additional support.

 

I don't know specifically on what to do to strengthen the neck, but to lessen stress on it during yoga, one of my teachers has instructed me to stop following the drishti I was taught in Warrior I. Instead of looking up at my hands, I look forward so I keep my neck long and straight.  I'm also avoiding headstand and practicing on my forearm stand instead, but I am not sure if gazing downward is causing neck strain.

 

I sustained a neck / shoulder injury 10 months ago, and I would have pain if I rotated my neck. But after doing this particular neck stretch variation in my class, I rotated my head pain-free for the first time in many months.  I couldn't find an exact picture of the pose (no idea what it's called, please let me know if you do!), but it's like this half straddle stretch.  The variations are that the right hand's fingers are tucked underneath the Achilles tendon and the left leg is tucked behind. As long as there is no knee pain, the left hand grabs onto the left ankle in the back, which allows a deeper stretch in the neck.

 

Is it only your neck that feels tense, or does it travel to your shoulders, too?  I went to a few weeks of physical therapy for my neck pain and was told it aggravated by my sitting posture (so I completely relate to sitting at the desk). The exercises I learned were all to strengthen my shoulder muscles so they could pull my shoulders back while sitting instead of slumping forward.

 

So glad you asked this question. I would love to learn what gives you relief!

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Sit at your desk normally and have someone snap a pic of you. If you're somewhat slouching, your head will be in front of your torso. The head is heavy and can strain the neck and upper back big time combined with the slouching shoulders. See if it's that. Also, when you come into inversions, think about softening the neck. Sometimes, like in scorpion pose where you're sort of having to look out in front of you a bit, it can be easy to strain the neck when you're trying to get that arch in the back by really cranking the neck. 

If you need a gentle stretch, here's a 10 min vid for neck and shoulders

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thanks YogaFire and Candace. 

 

YogaFire I have to avoid headstands to from time to time.  They just aggravate my neck.  My shoulders have gotten a lot stronger with inversions and it seems like they stay tense.  So I'm thinking that contributes to the neck issue. Thanks for sharing your experience with this.

 

Thanks Candace ....I appreciate all of the feedback.  :) I do have a tendancy to lean forward with my head.  My chiro told me that years ago and a Pilates friend on Instagram.  I have to work on consciously keeping my head in correct alignment.  Thanks so much.  I love that video you shared. I found it yesterday after I posted the question.

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That video is great - inspires me to go buy a bolster (so glad there's another thread discussing recs for that!).

 

JEC, I also thought of something last night. I've been sitting better at my desk recently because I started using a foot rest (yoga foam block, pretty comfortable) because I'm short and using a chair that can't lower any more to the ground.  Maybe there are other reasons similar to this that contribute to the tendency to lean forward with your head.

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I recently discovered a lot of my neck and shoulder tension is actually coming from jaw tension. If you're a jaw clencher or teeth grinder, focusing on relaxing that can help a lot. I tend to clench my jaw when I'm doing a particularly difficult pose!

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I recently discovered a lot of my neck and shoulder tension is actually coming from jaw tension. If you're a jaw clencher or teeth grinder, focusing on relaxing that can help a lot. I tend to clench my jaw when I'm doing a particularly difficult pose!

Yes, I tense up too. I just remembered a teacher cue that helps me with this is "touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth".  I realize that is still possible to do this while clenched, but, I think the action of focusing your tongue to move lets your jaw slacken.

 

Another good way to tell if I'm tensing up (which I didn't realize until it was pointed out to me) is if my toes are curled up, so I need to remember to fan them out and not grip the mat. I suspect if you're tensing in one area in your body, the rest might follow, all the way up to your shoulders and neck!

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  I couldn't find an exact picture of the pose (no idea what it's called, please let me know if you do!), but it's like this half straddle stretch.  The variations are that the right hand's fingers are tucked underneath the Achilles tendon and the left leg is tucked behind. As long as there is no knee pain, the left hand grabs onto the left ankle in the back, which allows a deeper stretch in the neck.

 

 

 

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana - Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose

 

Is this the name of the pose? The left hand can go over top the right foot, directly reaching over top of the toes grasping the bottom of the foot then push away with the right foot for more lengthening of the left side torso and shoulder. Or any variation that allows comfortable breath and balanced pelvis. It is a beautiful pose. If it helps your neck that is great.

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Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana - Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose

 

Is this the name of the pose? The left hand can go over top the right foot, directly reaching over top of the toes grasping the bottom of the foot then push away with the right foot for more lengthening of the left side torso and shoulder. Or any variation that allows comfortable breath and balanced pelvis. It is a beautiful pose. If it helps your neck that is great.

So close!

 

But I think the pose my teacher taught is a neck stretch variation of a side bend. I tried searching many images for this without success. So, I sucked it up, got over my fear of sharing my picture. Forgive the background clutter - I don't normally practice at home.

 

I feel the stretch on the right side of my neck because I'm extending my right arm and grabbing my right ankle. Sometimes I feel more of a stretch too if I look down - just depends where the tension decided to travel that day.

 

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regarding the computer - make sure it is at eye level!  I work as a PT and discuss computer setup with patients all the time.  so many of them come back and say that their computer was too low so I tell them to put it on a ream of paper (or however many it takes to get eye level...or spend money on a fancy computer lift).  If you look down now you send your head forward, then slouch your back and you have pain (neck, shoulder blade, arm numbness, shoulder pain, elbow pain, lower back pain, sciatica...)  

 

while I'm on my soap box - make sure that you can reach your keyboard and mouse with your arms in at your side. I also see a lot of people who have a really fancy chair but the arm rests do not fit under the desk, so then you need to reach way forward and end up not being supported by the chair and/or straining the shoulder.

 

lastly, if you use a laptop for work and use it for hours a day, get that elevated on something to eye level and use a wireless keyboard/mouse  

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So close!

 

But I think the pose my teacher taught is a neck stretch variation of a side bend. I tried searching many images for this without success. So, I sucked it up, got over my fear of sharing my picture. Forgive the background clutter - I don't normally practice at home.

 

I feel the stretch on the right side of my neck because I'm extending my right arm and grabbing my right ankle. Sometimes I feel more of a stretch too if I look down - just depends where the tension decided to travel that day.

 

 

Parivrtta Viranchyasana B ? There are variations of all these poses. Different poses can get mixed up and confusing. I have a book with Viranchyasana B and have practiced it a few times as well (long ago). I could scan the pic but the important part is it works for you. And it is perfectly fine to focus on the part of the pose that gives you the most benefit. Your picture is good, nothing wrong with that.

 

And like Katie said computers and sitting are terrible for our health.

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Thanks Anahata for checking.  I guess that's the main reason why I wanted to learn the pose name - so I could look it up if I forgot to make sure I was looking in the right direction or other things.  The teacher who taught this pose is on maternity leave, so I'm glad I could confirm here!

 

I liked this variation because it gives me a side stretch in addition to stretching the levator scapula.  Otherwise, one can just do this levator scapula stretch below, which I should have linked first:

thumbnailCAUFU9C2.jpg

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 so many of them come back and say that their computer was too low so I tell them to put it on a ream of paper (or however many it takes to get eye level...or spend money on a fancy computer lift).

 

lastly, if you use a laptop for work and use it for hours a day, get that elevated on something to eye level and use a wireless keyboard/mouse  

 

Good reminder! This reminds me that when I traveled for work, I carried a portable notebook stand without a keyboard and typed on it "slanted".  

 

The reams of paper are such a good idea, wish I knew this earlier!  We recently did this for my husband's set up that has two monitors, and we had trouble finding magazines that would be the same height.  Instead, we saved two identical small boxes from Amazon shipments, and I covered them with wrapping paper so they would look less of an eyesore.

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