How Yoga Can Remove Neck And Shoulder Pain
According to master yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, “true yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied”.
As outlined, yoga is a very healthy practice and, for many people, an incredibly healthy way of life. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” and can be translated into “to join”. It describes, on a practical level, the union of the body, mind and soul and, on a spiritual level, the union of individual and universal consciousness. The union on the practical level must take place before a union on a higher, spiritual level can be achieved. This implies that people who would like to achieve a union with a higher reality first have to incorporate the practice of shatkarma, pranayama, bandha, mudra, asana and meditation into their lives.
When I started practicing yoga, I thought it is simply a practice that will help to improve my body strength and flexibility. I wasn’t aware that there would be so much more to yoga than only the benefits to my physical appearance. Ie. It gives me clarity, makes me feel more present, in the moment, and allows me to pause and live – breath by breath. It gives me more awareness of my body and mental state and makes me feel more healthy, calm and balanced.
During the last three years, I had an office job in a big IT company, which forced me to have a seated position for a major period of time of my day in front of a laptop screen. This constant seated position and usage of mouse and keyboard (that we human beings are simply not made for) caused a range of health issues but especially permanent neck, shoulder and back pain that influenced my overall wellbeing a lot.
If all this sounds familiar to you, I have some advice on specific asanas and pranayama instructions and guidelines which may be beneficial for you in order to improve your overall well-being and eliminate neck and shoulder pain.
1. Get on your Cat and Cow pose, Chakravakasana
The first two asanas that you may incorporate into your daily yoga practice are Marjariasana, meaning cat pose and Bitilasana, meaning cow pose. They are normally performed in succession and are also known as the cat-cow pose. It improves flexibility in your spine, shoulders and neck.
In order to practice these asanas, you first have to come into a tabletop position with your knees in line with hips and your wrists in line with shoulders. From this neutral starting position, you inhale while raising your head and depressing your spine so that your back becomes concave. Expand your abdomen fully in this position, breath deeply and hold your breath for three seconds. From this position – the cat pose – start exhaling while stretching your spine upward and lowering your head. Pull in your tailbone and contract your abdomen. Hold your breath for three seconds and repeat the pose five to ten times.
Try initiating movement from the tailbone, moving the spine from a rounded position (flexion) to an arched one (extension), like an energy current flowing through the spine, neck, and head to create a fluid and undulating movement that helps awaken the chakras.
2. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Another pose which helps to release back, neck and shoulder pain is Ardha Matsyendrasana – the half spinal twist, also known as the half lord of the fishes pose. It stretches the muscles on one side of the back and abdomen while simultaneously contracting the muscles on the other side. It makes your back muscles supple, tones the nerves of your spine and reduces the tendency of adjoining vertebrae to develop calcium deposits and inflammatory problems. Additional benefits of the pose are that it energizes your spine and simultaneously stimulates the digestive fire in your belly.
In this asana you first need to sit with stretched out legs in front of you. Then, you need to bend your right leg and place the right foot on the outside of the left knee. You also need to bend your left leg and place the left foot around the right buttock. Reach back with your left arm and place it against the outside of your right leg while holding your right ankle or foot with your left hand and bringing the right knee close to the left armpit. Slowly twist to the right, look backward and exhale. Hold this position for one to two minutes and then repeat on the other side.
3. The Divine Eagle Pose
The third asana which I would like to recommend to you is Garudasana, also known as eagle pose. It is good for the upper back, loosens the joints of legs, arms, and shoulders, strengthens muscles and improves concentration.
Guradasana is a standing asana in which you focus your gaze on a fixed point. You need to bend your right leg and twist it around your left leg. At the same time, you have to twist your forearms around each other with the left elbow remaining below. Place the palms together, bend your left knee to lower the body and keep the back straight. Hold this position for as long as you feel comfortable and repeat with the other side.
Proper breathing should be, as you know, a vital part of every person’s yoga practice. I am, however, not only referring to the correct inhalation and exhalation during your yoga session but also to the use of certain pranayama techniques. Here, breathing is utilized to influence the flow of prana in the energy channels of the energy body. One pranayama, which also positively influences neck and shoulder pain, is Sheetali. During the practice of this technique, you have to sit in a meditative asana of your choice. You then need to role your tongue and simultaneously inhale through your mouth. The air going inside your mouth will be cooled by your tongue. Afterward, you have to exhale from both nostrils. This pranayama technique stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and has, therefore, a calming effect. It is very effective for relaxation of body and mind.
If you’re looking for more on how yoga can help in your everyday life, check out our guide on how yoga can help you with stress management.