Ow, neck pain – the pain so fundamentally annoying that any other annoyance can also be called a pain in the neck. Like any tight muscle, the sternocleidomastoid in the neck can benefit from a good stretch. A great therapeutic exercise for that particular muscle is the Revolved Triangle yoga pose.
The sternocleidomastoid is a major muscle of the neck, which connects the sternum and clavicle to a point on the skull behind the ear. The left and right sternocleidomastoids control the ability of the neck to flex and rotate. They may become tight from improper posture, and in some cases can contribute to headaches. The Revolved Triangle pose creates a deep rotational stretch through the whole body from the toes to the spine and up along the sides of the neck.
Stand with your feet about 3 feet apart and your spine straight. Raise your arms, stretching out to both sides but keeping your shoulder blades down. Turn your right foot out toward your side, and rotate your left foot 45 degrees toward the same side. Exhale as you turn your hips and torso toward your right foot and continue to breathe with your arms raised as you settle into this position.
Exhale again as you bend at the waist while turning further to the right, so that you are looking behind you and your left hand is near your right foot. Keeping your arms straight, touch the ground on either side of your foot. If that stretch is too intense, you can rest your hand on your calf or on a yoga brick near your foot. Press down with your hand to deepen the stretch.
Stretching the Sternocleidomastoid
The final version of this pose and the one which best stretches the sternocleidomastoid is to turn your head and look up at your right hand while in the full twist position. However, this can be difficult at first, so you can start by looking straight ahead or even at the floor if necessary. Eventually you should turn your head to look as far up as you can.
Completing the Pose
Hold the full twist while breathing deeply for up to a minute. Exhale as you release the twist, then inhale as you come back to a standing position. Reverse your feet and repeat the full twist in the opposite direction to stretch the other sternocleidomastoid.
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