Tight shoulders, stiff neck, sometimes a bit of a tension headache… Does that sound familiar to you? These used to be almost daily occurrences for me when I used to work in an office. With hours spent working on a computer, driving to and from work and the occasional stress caused by daily life, my shoulders and neck used to be tense and feel tight pretty much all the time. On a bad day, a tension headache would start at the back of my head, result of too much tension in my neck and shoulders.
As a general rule, posture plays a huge impact on the overall health of your spine, especially your upper spine – neck and shoulders. Stress can also play a big role. I am one of these people who tense up from the shoulders down when something gets to me, as if I am bracing myself for whatever is going to come next. If you are like me, the likelihood is that you are no stranger to stiff necks and painful shoulders that could really do with a hot bath or a massage.
Unfortunately for us, we don’t always have the chance to book ourselves in for a massage or to run a bath or a hot shower there and then!
So what can we do?
Yoga is amazing at releasing physical and emotional tension from the upper spine. With a few simple moves, you can almost feel the knots loosening and your shoulders relaxing.
One of the easiest way to release the tension from your shoulders if you notice that they are tensing up is to do some shoulder rolls.
Simply take your shoulders in a circle. Start by shrugging up towards your ears, then take your shoulders back and down and finally forward and up. Repeat a few times and then try and go the other way. Shrug up, take your shoulders forward and down, and then back and up.
You might hear a fair amount of creaking in the shoulder joints as you do that, but as long as you don’t experience any pain, there’s nothing to worry about.
If you want to take this further, place your fingertips on the front of your shoulders and bring your elbows together in front. Start by lifting the elbows and then open them out to the sides. Circle them down, then forward and back up the original position. Repeat a few times before changing direction.
I just mentioned shrugs as part of the shoulder rolls but shrugs in themselves are all good. Add a good, deep outbreath as you release the shrug and feel the tension draining away.
Sitting up straight with your shoulders back, start by taking your neck over to one side and then to the other side. Don’t be tempted to roll your neck all the way around, especially if it feels tense to start up with. Simply going from side to side, while keeping your shoulders relax with ease off a lot of the tension in the neck and shoulders.
Start with your arms by your sides and begin to rotate the arms in one direction and then the other. If you want, you can take the arms up as you carry on rotating. Make sure you don’t take them higher than shoulder height.
Sitting up straight with your shoulders back, start by looking straight ahead of you. Slowly turn your head to one side to look over one shoulder (or as far as comfortable), come back to looking ahead of you and then slowly turn your head to the other side.
Make sure that you keep in a range of movements that feels comfortable for you.
All these movements are great to release tension and stiffness from the shoulders and the neck. If you want a more comprehensive back care yoga session, EBR1 (Energy Block Release 1) is the ideal sequence to release tension throughout the whole of the spine, from the neck and shoulders down to the lower spine.
You can find a class that includes EBR1 here: https://youtu.be/LiopLZ5dWpI