Create movement in the neck in order to release tension. We carry much of our daily stress in the neck and shoulders. Take a few minutes in your day in order to breathe and move with the intention of releasing stress and muscle tension. Move with care and mindfulness.
Focus on the breath, creating expansion and equanimity on each breath. Perhaps try counting to the number four on an inhale, and see if you can match the length, counting to the number four on the exhale. Find a count that feels natural to you, and see if you can maintain that count on each breath. Breathe and move with compassion.
Start by coming to a comfortable cross-legged seat, Sukhasana. Sukhasana means easy or pleasant pose. Switch the feet half-way through the sequence in order to build balance in the body. Move the front foot to the back and the back foot to the front. Use a wall for support or sit on a blanket or a block for support. Ground through the sitting bones, the ischial tuberosity. Notice if the pelvis is neutral. Reach the tailbone down towards the ground to create a neutral pelvis. Bring the palms to rest of the thighs.
Take a couple of deep and full breaths so that the back line of the body opens and expands. Notice how the heart space lifts up towards the ceiling on the inhale. Notice how the body softens and relaxes on the exhale.
Lift the crown of the head towards the ceiling and draw the shoulder blades down the back. Draw the low belly in towards the spine.
Shoulder shrugs: Take a couple slow and deep inhales and exhales in order to prepare. On an inhale breath, draw the shoulders up towards the ears. On an exhale breath, allow the shoulders to relax down the back. Take a few rounds of shoulder shrugs in coordination with your breath in order to prepare the body.
Drop the ear towards each shoulder: Take an inhale breath with the neck in a neutral position. On an exhale, drop the right ear to the right shoulder. Hold and relax the neck for a couple of breaths. Notice the opening on the left side of the shoulder. Notice if you slightly shift the crown of the head forwards or backwards you can create different sensations, drawing attention to a different area of the neck.
On an inhale come back to center. On an exhale, drop the left ear towards the left shoulder and hold and relax the right side of the neck. Allow the right shoulder to drop towards the ground. You can use the opposite hand to assist the stretch by gently guiding the opposite shoulder down towards the ground, accentuating the length of the stretch.
Option to use the palm to accentuate or deepen the stretch: Option to take another round of dropping the ear towards the shoulder. Use the palm of the right hand to accentuate the stretch, but never use force. Bring the palm of the right hand to the left side of the head to gently assist in deepening the stretch on the left side and then the right.
Drop the chin towards the chest with hands interlaced behind the back of using a strap or towel: Come to a neutral position with the head and neck. Bring the palms behind the back and interlace the fingers or use a strap or towel to assist you. Draw the shoulder blades down the back and feel the opening in the area of the shoulder girdle.
Take an inhale breath, and on exhale breath, allow the chin to drop towards the chest. Allow the back of the neck to relax. Stay here and breath, as you notice the back of the neck will lengthen and slowly begin to release tension. Release the palms and relax a moment.
Option to take another round of dropping the chin towards the chest. Interlace the fingers behind the back or use a strap or towel to assist you. Drop the chin towards the chest on an exhale. Stay here and breathe. Create smooth and even inhales and exhales. Notice if the mind wanders, give the breath a color and watch the color as it moves up and down the spine.
Bring the head and neck back to neutral and release the bind behind the back.
Reach/stretch/and drop the fingers: Bring the arms up over the head on an inhale. On an exhale, drop the left arm down to the ground and reach the right arm over towards the left side of the room. Notice that the right sitting bone wants to lift and ground down through the right sitting bone. Draw the right shoulder blade flush to the back and enjoy the stretch starting from the right hip and out through the right fingers. Stay here and breathe for a few breaths. Create slow and even inhales and exhales. Option to drop down to the left forearm if that is comfortable or use a block for support.
Keep the torso in the same position and allow the right arm to come over towards the right side. Keep the fingers elevated from the ground. Reach through the right fingers and notice and enjoy the stretch on the right side of the neck. Stay here and breathe. Slowly come out and bring the head and neck up to neutral. Option to use the right palm to assist the head back to neutral with care.
Take the same movements on the opposite side. Start with the hands over the head on an inhale. On an exhale drop the right hand down to the ground and lean over towards the right. Reach the left arm over the head. Stay here and breathe.
Next, drop the left arm towards the left, keeping the fingers elevated. Enjoy the length of the stretch on the left side of the neck. Gently come back to neutral. Option to use the left palm to guide the head gently back to neutral.
Twist: Reach the arms up over the head and sit tall on an inhale. On an exhale, bring the right palm behind the back and bring the left palm to the right knee. Create a tall straight spine rather than a rounded spine. On an inhale breath, reach the crown of the head towards the ceiling. On an exhale breath, gently deepen the twist, by allowing the breath to pull you in deeper rather than muscling into the twist. Accentuate the stretch in the neck by looking over the right shoulder. Stretch the eyes towards the back of the room. Stay here and breathe. Create smooth inhales and exhales.
Gently come out of the twist and come back to center. Take the same movement on the opposite side.
Shimmy the shoulders underneath you in order to create more expansion in the “heart” space. Allow the palms to fall open towards the ceiling, a gesture to relax and receive.
Close the eyes and relax the face and jaws. Allow the tongue to fall from the roof of the mouth. Relax the space in between the eyebrows. Allow the breath to flow naturally. Notice how you feel. Does the neck feels elongated and relaxed? Savor this posture as you allow the body to consciously relax in an awakened state. Notice how it feels to move with intention, mindfulness and with compassion.
Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga and breathing techniques. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.
Christi Iacono, owner of In Rhythms Yoga
Christi Iacono is a certified yoga teacher, at the 500 hour level. She is the owner of In Rhythms Yoga, in Clairemont. IRY is a small neighborhood studio in Clairemont, S.D., located in the Mount Streets. Christi guides adults, kids and families in the tradition of yoga. Christi has experienced many positive physical and mental transformations from her regular yoga practice. She enjoys sharing her experience, passion, and dedication with her students. She believes that yoga is accessible to all. Rather than forcing someone’s body into a pose, Christi carefully works with each individual to find the variation that will best serve their body.
IRY offers regularly scheduled vinyasa and yin-based classes on, Sat., Sun. (Yin-Yoga) and Wed. mornings as well as a Tues. evening class.
Go to www.inrhythmsyoga.com to see the full schedule, instructors and for private lessons.