Postural Awareness and Breathing
Deep breathing is the first step to relieving neck tension. When we breathe in a shallow manner, the muscles of the neck (instead of the diaphragm) contract. To begin to breathe deeply using the diaphragm, sit upright at the edge of a chair with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Make sure the knees are lower than your hips. Place your hands on your belly and close your eyes. As you inhale, feel your belly rise into your hands and as you exhale, feel it fall. Notice any tension in the neck and relax your neck muscles as you direct the breath into the belly.
As you breathe, bring your awareness into the front of the chest and the collar bones. Broaden your collar bones so the front of the chest lifts up. Drop your shoulder blades away from the ears and lift the crown of the head towards the sky.
Continue to breathe this way for 10 deep breaths. Try to do this every hour by setting an alarm as a reminder to stop, breathe and notice your posture.
“The Clock” (Pec Stretch)
Stand along side a wall and place your right hand up on the wall to 12 o’clock. Slowly move your hand from 12 to 1, 2 and finally to the position at 3 o’clock. Take your left hand and place it on the right rib cage. Take a deep inhalation and as you exhale, pull the rib cage forward without moving the right arm. You should feel a stretch in front of the right shoulder or down the right arm. Hold for six deep breaths. To intensify the stretch, move closer to the wall. Repeat on the other side. If there is any tingling in the arm, move away from the wall until it resolves or discontinue the exercise.
Arms Overhead With Strap
Using a yoga strap or belt, take your arms overhead, shoulder-distance apart. Make sure the palms face away from each other. If you cannot straighten your elbows in this position, take the arms wider on the belt. Drop the chin into the chest in order to relax the neck muscles and pull the strap apart. Hold for six deep breaths and repeat two times.
Downward Dog at the Wall
Stand facing a wall with your hands at waist-height. Walk your feet back into a table top position with your feet directly underneath your hips. Lift the sitting bones towards the sky as you press the hands into the wall. Feel as if your heart is melting towards the floor. If you feel a great deal of stretching in the hamstrings, keep the knees slightly bent. Hold for six deep breaths, focusing on opening the chest and lengthening the spine.
As with all things, consistency is the key and the more regularly you practice these exercises, the better off you’ll be. Ideally, you should get up every hour to stretch even for a minute or two. Remember–we are fighting a battle against gravity. With regular practice and the right guidance you can stand tall, proud and pain-free for life.
It is possible that your pain is coming from a different condition and therefore is important to consult with a doctor or physical therapist prior to beginning any exercise program.