Whether you're sitting down for long periods of time or are on your feet all day, neck and shoulder pain can be hard to avoid. Considering that our modern lifestyles often lead to long hours of sitting in front of a computer or looking down at our phones, it's no wonder gravity takes its toll and causes tension.
If you’ve ever felt stiffness or soreness in your shoulders and neck after a long hard day, you’re not alone. The pain can not only be uncomfortable, but it can also get in the way of a good, restful night’s sleep. Luckily, yoga can help.
The key in opening up the neck and shoulders in a yoga posture is breathing. Because we typically breathe shallow breaths and don't fully use the diaphragm — the dome-shaped muscle that resides just below the rib cage, responsible for stabilizing the spine and upper body — the muscles in our neck and shoulders have to work harder. These muscles aren't made to withstand that strain for extended periods of time, so the tissue becomes overworked, dehydrated, and stiff. This can cause pain and muscle spasms. However, you can encourage the circulation of fresh blood into those tight areas and melt away stress and tension with a few simple postures you can perform right in your bed before you drift off.
In each of these postures, be sure to pay extra close attention to your breath. You can even choose to do a breathing practice called three-part breath in each of these poses, which will help get the blood moving to those wound-up areas. Three part breath is simple to practice. Simply breathe deeply first into your belly (making sure to inflate it like a balloon), then into your ribs, then into your chest, all in one inhale. You're essentially breaking one breath up into three parts, first feeling your belly rise, then your ribs expand, and finally your chest lift — then letting the breath out the opposite way. This breathing practice helps to wake up the diaphragm and can lessen, and in some cases eliminate, upper back pain when practiced regularly!
Now that you've got the breathing down, scroll through the gallery below for a soothing yoga sequence that will show your shoulders and neck some much-needed love.