Yoga and Health

Can Yoga Help With Neck Injuries?

shutterstock_2793222Neck and shoulder pains are very common among most people. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, more than 20 percent of adults have complained experiencing persistent or chronic neck pain. This ailment is usually caused by muscle trauma due to poor posture, injury and sedentary lifestyle.

Posture problems can cause chronic neck pain, especially when you are always on a forward head posture. You may not notice it, but when you are doing daily tasks such as working on your computer the entire day, your body tend to hunch. This causes the muscles in your neck, shoulder and upper back to exert maximum effort to balance the weight of your head. The muscles in your mid back and back shoulders become overstretched while the ones in your neck and chest are compressed. Overtime, it distorts your back, especially in the areas leading to your neck and chest. Being in this posture can cause your head to move forward and your shoulders to follow a round form. This can be very uncomfortable and the tendency would be to move your head even more forward, which results to further tightening in the neck area.

And this position does not affect your neck alone. The tightening of your muscles in the neck and chest area places pressure on the nerves of your arms which can lead to carpal tunnel. Meanwhile, the overstretching of your spine weakens it in the long run. This can lead to pain and inflammation in the shoulders and lower back. Incorrect posture also leads to improper breathing, indigestion and incorrect blood circulation. You will also experience having shallow breathing since you will be breathing from your chest and not from your diaphragm. The action also increases neck pain as this mechanism utilizes the respiratory muscles in the neck area.

The best way to avoid this common cause of neck pain is to constantly check your posture and become proactive in taking care of it. And what better way to reinforce this through yoga? Yoga helps in keeping your focus towards the right posture, in becoming aware of how your body works, and in practicing proper breathing techniques.
By doing yoga on a regular basis, you will find that it becomes easier and effortless for you to maintain correct postural habits. You will also improve blood circulation not only in your neck, but also in the surrounding and supporting muscles in the head, neck, chest and shoulder area.

Yoga can help alleviate the pain in your neck area. The Child’s pose or the Balasana pose is a very relaxing yoga position that benefits your back and your neck. It is designed to make you feel less stressed, emotionally and mentally. The pose is usually done during transition or as a way to rest in between high intensity yoga poses. To start, kneel with your knees in a comfortable width apart with your big toes touching together behind you. Stretch your upper body in front with your arms reaching out to the floor in front of you. You can also put your forehead towards the floor, or lay your head to the side. Remain in this position and slowly listen to your breathing. As you inhale you will notice that your back body rises, and as you exhale, your back goes back to a more relaxed pose. Do this for 30 seconds to a minute and you will feel relaxed and in a neutral place, where you can just focus on your breathing.

The Cat Cow pose is done to create flexibility in the spine area as it lengthens the neck and the torso. To start, you will be on all fours with your hips aligned with your knees and your shoulders aligned with your wrists. The first position is the cow pose or the Bitilisana. While on all fours, look in front of you. Inhale slowly while moving your belly downwards, roll back your shoulders and move your gaze upwards. In this position, you will have a soft arch in the neck and back area. As you exhale, you will do the cat pose, which is the reverse of your first position. Here your stomach will cave in and your gaze moves towards your navel. Repeat the poses within ten cycles while breathing slowly and comfortably.

The Seated Twist Pose is designed to create flexibility in your spinal area while maintaining flexibility in the muscles of your neck. To start, sit tall and straight on the mat with both of your legs extended towards the front. Cross your left leg outside of the outstretched right leg. As you inhale, twist your right upper body to your left. As you exhale, extend your right arm.

The Ear to Shoulder pose is very easy to perform and can be done anywhere. You can do this while sitting or standing, as long as your spine is in a straight posture. It helps in creating a comfortable lateral movement on the neck and at the same time, it stretches the muscles in your shoulders and traps. To begin, keep your arms at your sides with your eyes staring straight ahead. Inhale and as you exhale, bring your right ear towards your right shoulder. Your head should remain within the same plane as your shoulders and do not lean it towards the front or the back. As you draw your breath in, bring your head back to the center. As you exhale, move your left ear towards your left shoulder. To enhance the stretching of your muscles, you can use your hands to softly guide your head towards the shoulders.

On a daily basis, you have to be mindful of how your posture is. Avoid slumping and putting your head forward, particularly when you are sitting in your desk. Be aware that following an improper posture is the number one culprit in the misalignment of your body, one that can lead to chronic neck problems. As you progress with yoga, you will become more mindful in intentionally keeping your posture straight and tall. Whether you are working, reading or just relaxing, take the time to exercise your neck in a full range of motion to maintain its flexibility.

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