Waking up with neck pain is no picnic nor is walking around with a stiff, hunched posture. Your back may have its own way of letting you know it’s fed up, and right now that might be through pain or inflexibility.
Since we know you’re geeked to jump on one or two of those New Year’s resolutions, why not do something nice for your body’s aches and tight muscles? You can do it with a handful of yoga stretches that help relieve pain and tension in your neck, back, and spine.
The following suggestions were shared with Prevention by yoga instructor Mya McKenna that target the shoulders, lower back, and spine. Ease into each one every morning or evening and lose the back hunch.
A shoulder opening pose, reverse prayer is considered an intermediate asana but can be modified to make it a bit easier. It works the shoulders, arms, and chest, and is beneficial if you’ve been hunched over a computer all day.
Start by standing up and rolling your shoulders backward and forward a few times. Bring your arms behind your back and touch your palms together with the fingertips pointing down. Slowly turn your hands inward until they are pointing up. If you have difficulty, McKenna recommends simply touching your knuckles together or using a strap.
This one is great for warming up the shoulders and arms. Eagle arms is a variation of garudasana, which typically involves both the arms and legs. For this version, bring both arms out to the sides and cross the arms by placing the right elbow on top of the left.
Bend both elbows, but reach the right hand behind the left, bringing the left hand close to your face. Clasp hands or rest the palms together.
Camel pose will open up the shoulders and stretch the spine, giving your lower back some much-needed attention. To do camel pose, begin by kneeling in an upright position with your knees hip-width apart. Keeping your thighs perpendicular, push them forward as you lean back, curving your spine and touching your heels. Drop the shoulders, being sure that your shoulder blades are relaxed.
Beginners can modify this asana by placing the hands on the lower back in the pelvic region. You may also use a yoga block to rest your hands on if you prefer a deeper stretch. Stay in the pose for up to a minute, taking deep breaths.
Wide Legged Forward Fold with Twist
For this version of a standing forward bend, you will spread your feet about 3 to 4 feet apart. Toes should be pointing forward. Extend your spine as you bend forward, leading with the chest.
Twist to one side as you touch one hand to the floor and reach the other towards the ceiling. If your left hand is raised, then your torso should be twisted towards the left and vice versa. Hold for about three to five deep breaths and switch sides.
Fish pose is wonderful for your neck and spine, but using blocks will ease you into the bend when you lie down flat on your back. Sit on the mat and place one block (on its long side) under where your shoulder blades will rest and the other under where your head shall sit. Lie down, gently arching the spine. Extend your arms out to your sides.
Cow Face Arms
Cow face arms helps to stretch the shoulders, chest, and arms, and this pose can be done sitting or standing. It is useful to have a yoga strap, towel, or belt handy to assist you.
Bend your left elbow behind your back so that the back of your palm rests in the middle of the spine. Holding the prop in the right hand, bend the right elbow, palm in, so that your forearm is parallel to your spine. Slide it down so that either your hands meet or you can hold the prop (strap or towel) comfortably. Try to keep your right elbow close to your head. Change arms.
Take your time getting used to these stretches so that you don’t injure yourself. Remember just a few minutes of stretching each day can make a real difference in your ability to reduce back pain, shoulder tension, and inflexibility. Start slow and build up!
Have you done yoga before? If not, which of these stretches will you try? Do you have issues with tight shoulders or a sore back?