Many of us hold stress around our neck and shoulders, let’s explore why does this occurs and what can we do about it. Have you noticed in the peak of uncertainty it feels like your body is frozen? This is because you are in fight or flight, the stress response is elicited when we feel that there is a threat on our survival. Even though we are not particularly in a state of survival how come we get highjacked by this stress response so frequently?
Think about a time where you were unsure about how things would pan out, for example your boss suddenly calls you to his office, or a nationwide lockdown is imposed due to the coronavirus, or you get a voice message from your child’s school in the middle of the day. Our mind immediately extrapolates to the worst case scenario, isn’t it? We quickly go into our most feared circumstance in our minds? “Oh, my boss is going to fire me, I won’t be able to get groceries and we’ll starve during the lockdown, my child is in urgent medical care- its an emergency” We take a trigger and fast forward to a dreaded situation, that hasn’t even happened and we react on the scenario we play in our minds. What happens to the body when it tenses up? Have you observed what goes on for tension to be built up?
When we are stressed our breathing becomes shallow, this creates a stiffness in our upper back because we no longer employ the diaphragm while breathing instead it is directed into the chest. The shoulders tense up when we breathe into the chest because we use a fraction of our lung capacity during shallow breathing, to get the same amount of air it requires faster breathing which tires the body. To correct this yoga teaches slower deeper belly breathing, this immediately relaxes the upper body and brings a more sustained source of energy.
A lack of strength around the area will also result in more stiffness and tension. Yoga teaches overall strength to condition the body and eliminate aches and pains. Allow for mobilizations and held postures such as plank pose to build muscles around the arms, back, core and shoulders.
With our sedentary lifestyles in front of our computers for hours we have sacrificed our posture. Hunched over where our upper back is rounded, shoulders are stooped and chin protruding out. To correct posture we need to condition the body to draw the shoulders down and back, lengthen the neck and open the chest, cobra pose is one of the most recommended postures in yoga.
4. Neck Stability
Holding our head in a strained position usually in front of our phones or devices creates tightness around the neck, due to a combination of both poor posture and weakness around the neck. Yoga teaches the value of bridge pose, by pushing the head back and to the floor it safely stabilizes the neck muscles isometrically. You want to avoid sharp movements of heavy loads as these muscles are very sensitive, lifting the body and drawing the arms down elongates the neck by moving the shoulders away from the ears to release neck compression.
Going back to the root cause of the tension- it’s imperative to address the stress levels. When you feel anxious don’t you usually clench your jaw? Many have normalized stress so much that they keep their jaw clenched even while they sleep- that will give you an insight on the quality of sleep when you experience chronic stress. This held tension puts a lot of effort around the side of the neck, take time to notice where in your body you hold your stress and consciously, yoga nidra is highly beneficial to practice daily. It is a guided body scan relaxation that you can do in bed to ensure a peaceful and restorative sleep.
If you are suffering from stiffness and tension around your neck and shoulders we would be happy to help you heal naturally through yoga, we are specialists in one on one yoga to ensure you get our full attention and personalized adjustments, each program is structured to cater to your exact needs and goals, our qualified and experienced team of teachers come to your home or office anywhere in Hong Kong, for clients overseas we are guide you through live private classes online, to get started click here for a free consultation with the founder of Inspire Yoga, Neelam Harjani.