One of the most common complaints I hear is of neck, shoulder and upper back pain. So here are some simple Physiyoga tips for easing out the neck and shoulders. They can be done before you start your regular yoga practice or as stand alone exercises to provide some immediate relief.
Most people tend to spend a fair amount of their day sitting, working at a computer, writing, driving or checking mobile phones. Even a lot of hobbies and sports (for example playing instruments, cycling, climbing or running) are done in the frontal plane. The front body tends to get very tight especially around the front of the shoulders. The trapezius muscles elevate and can even go into spasm as they are constantly working hard, the upper back rounds and we compress around the front of the chest. All of this can cause upper back pain, neck pain , headaches and shoulder pathologies such as rotator cuff injuries.
Neck and shoulder tension exercises
Ok, so the Physiyoga essentials for these exercises are a spikey ball, theraband and yoga block. You can buy them online at various physio stores or if you have a tennis ball and a scarf you can always use them instead. For my students I often have them to purchase so just ask at class.
To start with we are going to warm up with a little physiyoga massage with your spikey balls.
Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, place a spikey under the trapezius muscle (the big muscles right at the top your shoulders, probably where you tend to feel a lot of tension). Move gently forward and back, or side to side to massage out any knots. You can also add in some arm circles with sustained pressure through the tight areas.
You can then move the ball to the infra-spinatus muscle, under the spine of the scapula (as demonstrated in video below) . Again gently move forward and backwards as well as side - side to find any particularly tight areas. You can also sustain the pressure on very tight spots (trigger points) if you prefer.
Finally take the ball and place it along the centre of you spine between your shoulder blades and roll the ball up and down the spine. The video below shows you how (you also get a little visit from my cat!) and a few other extras such as using the block to work into the latissimus dorsi muscles (or the big climbing muscles on the side of your chest and under your arm) and a rolled up mat to mobilise the thoracic spine.
If you then take your theraband, sit up on a block and make sure your hips are square. Put the theraband on a reasonable amount of tension and lean to one side, you can then start making circles with the top hand, really reach forward and to the side and then back, make sure you keep your arm on a stretch. Use your breath, on the inhale leaning forwards and exhale take your arm back. Take as many of these yummy stretches as you like. Then bring the band infront of you and put in on stretch , keeping the same length in the band, take it up and over your head to stretch the pecs and enjoy a lovely heart opener.
Finally take a lovely relaxation. You can lye over a rolled up mat, with the mat under your shoulders side ways or over a bolster length ways with you arms open to enjoy further chest, shoulder and neck relaxation. Imagine the breath moving into any areas of tension, surround the tight spots with your breath on the in breath and on the out breath let the tension dissolve. You can move around the body release any painful areas with your breath in this manner , works a treat.
You can use these techniques as a simple warm up to your normal yoga routine if you are experiencing particular tightness in the shoulders and neck or you may prefer to use these tips as stand alone techniques.