with Caitlin Parsons
According to MayoClinic, neck pain is a really common complaint for people. I believe it is due to the increase in technology, looking down to use our phones more often and sitting more than normal. Neck pain is often caused by poor posture, excessive use, or leaning forward or to one side regularly. Luckily, neck pain is rarely related to something more concerning.
As a yoga therapist, and someone who not only specializes in pain management and posture correction but also had to do this work for myself too, I am sharing 3 big tips for how you can reduce aches or pain in your neck with yoga; these are the aspects that I focus on for my private clients and they get AMAZING results when they start to implement them.
The problem is that most people have no idea they don’t have good posture, OR they have no idea that their posture is so important and the root cause of their pain. I was there too.
The truth is, bad posture, especially in the neck, causes so many issues because it forces certain muscles to overwork and other muscles to not pull their load. This causes an imbalance, and often times, a dysfunction in how the muscles are being used because they aren’t able to expand and contract like they are supposed to.
It doesn’t sound like a big deal but over an extended period of time, can cause A LOT of pain in the neck and lead to other long-term issues if not corrected.
Using Yoga to Increase Awareness of Your Posture
When it comes to neck pain that is caused by poor posture, overuse or incorrect use, we can use yoga to help us become more aware of our alignment. After all, the basis for yoga is awareness of you body and mind!
Start by taking a couple of photos of yourself or checking yourself out of in the mirror. The best photos or view to get will be when you are in your “regular” posture instead of trying to be in “perfect” posture. You want a photograph from the side and front so you have a better idea of what your alignment looks like.
From here, you can compare your photo to another photo of “ideal posture”. You can do a Google Search with “proper neck alignment” and check out some of the first images that pop up. What do you notice? Notice your head in relation to your spine. Notice if your chin is lifting up or reaching forward. Notice if your shoulders are elevating up towards your ears.
Take one of these things and start to become hyper-aware of this area during your yoga practice. Example: if your chin is really far forward, commonly known as forward head carriage, start to bring your chin in towards your chest during your yoga practice by pressing the back of your head up and back.
The only way to change your posture is by adjusting it bit by bit over time. The idea here is that the more you focus on one area and continue to adjust it, it will become muscle memory and a habit that lasts. It’s great to start this during our yoga practice because it is a time for slowing down, breathing and paying attention. This way, the more you do it in your yoga practice, the easier it becomes outside of yoga.
Yoga Stretching for Neck Pain
When you are constantly sitting, standing or moving with poor posture, this becomes muscle memory for your body. Depending on how long your posture has been this way will dictate how long it takes to reverse it but it is possible — I see it all the time. Our bodies are really smart and have the innate capability to heal given the proper tools.
Based on the example above with forward head carriage, this creates tightness in the muscles on the front of the chest, the neck up to the jaw and the back of the neck around the shoulders.
In order to reverse the forward head carriage, you want to focus on specific yoga stretches to help to open the front of the chest and down the arms to the hands, the front of the neck up to the jaw and the back of the neck and around the shoulders. Start by finding some stretches that help to open these areas while also focusing on maintaining proper posture as you go.
If you can’t find stretches that really help to get into all of these areas, I would suggest checking out my monthly membership program called Align Monthly Membership. Align is a monthly program where for only $24/month, you get DOZENS of yoga therapy classes, practices, specific training on posture and more to help you become more aware of your posture, improve alignment, decrease pain by utilizing simple and therapeutic stretches and strengthening practices!
Strengthening through Yoga for Neck Pain
Most people think that stretching is the only part of yoga and that stretching is the only thing that will improve your posture. While stretching and releasing regular tension is key, so is learning to strengthen and stabilize these areas so that proper alignment can be achieved.
In the example of having a forward head carriage, it’s also vital to build strength in the muscles on the back of the neck, the upper back and shoulder region. When you build functional stability here through Yoga Therapy, you make it possible for the shoulders and head to come back into proper alignment.
It’s a balance of creating space through releasing tension and stretching and building stability through strengthening.
This balance begins by understanding your unique alignment and posture. Once you have a baseline of where you’re at and you know where your goal is, you can start to take small steps in getting there.
There’s No One-Time-Pill to Fix Posture, It’s About Creating Results that Last
While most people prefer to find a quick fix-it pill when it comes to getting out of pain in their body, those quick fix-it’s oftentimes only provide temporary relief. Meanwhile, yoga therapy, when done properly and with a skilled yoga therapist, can offer long-term, sustainable results in improving your posture, decreasing pain and helping you to better understand your body all together. A win-win if you ask me!
Set yourself up with success by understanding what proper alignment is, understanding where you’re at and what you need to do to get back into alignment!
If this post resonated with you and you are looking for more practices that are focused on helping you understand and improve your posture, getting out of pain and holistic health as a way of healing the body, consider joining Aligned, my monthly membership space. For only $24/month, you get unlimited classes, practices and training’s to access whenever, wherever.
Caitlin Parsons, owner of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy and Founder of Aligned, the #1 monthly yoga therapy membership program. Caitlin specializes in pain management and injury recovery through posture correction. She also helps women reduce stress and anxiety by learning how to tap into their bodies innate wisdom.