Women's necks take a lot of pressure on a day-to-day basis. From the strain of picking up a 2-year-old to the tension headache you get when your boss hounds you for a report, it's no wonder your neck and shoulders feel like you're carrying the weight of the world. One of the best ways to ward off pain is to head to yoga class. There, you'll nab a few quiet moments to yourself and use certain asanas that help remove pressure from your neck and shoulders.
Downward Dog at the Wall
Downward Dog is a yoga class staple, but when done incorrectly, it can actually add to the pressure in your neck and shoulders. Take the easy way out by using a reformed pose to stretch out your shoulders. Place your hands against a wall and then slide them down until they are about waist height. Then, distance your feet shoulder-width apart and press back into your hips as you feel a stretch along the back. Hold for two or three breath cycles and repeat as necessary.
Cobra is an excellent neck and shoulder asana because it has variations that make it appropriate for different skill levels. Start by lying face-down on a yoga mat. Place your hands, palm-side down, beside your shoulders and inhale as you press into your hands, raising your chest off of the mat. Go as far as you feel comfortable -- full Cobra nearly raises your entire torso off of the mat. Hold the pose for three breath cycles and come back to the start position.
A Full Bridge is one of the more advanced floor yoga poses, so don't feel pressure to take full Bridge. In fact, Modified Bridge can still help to relieve neck and shoulder pain by decompressing the spine and stretching your shoulders. Lie on your back on a yoga mat with your knees bent and your feet planted on the mat. Press into your heels and raise your bottom off of the floor, aiming your pelvis at the ceiling. Press upward as far as you're comfortable so the contact points on the mat are in your feet and upper back or shoulders. Hold for three breath cycles and release carefully.
The Cat/Cow sequence is a simple one and ideal for beginners and experts alike. It helps stretch and relieve pressure on the spine. Start on all fours on your mat. Inhale and curl your back toward the ceiling, scooping in your abdominal muscles for one breath cycle. Exhale and this time, drop your belly toward the mat, allowing a deep curvature of the back. Look upward and hold for another breath cycle before release. Repeat the cycle three times.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.