I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t suffer from tight neck and shoulder muscles at least some of the time. Well, maybe my grandkids don’t. But for many, shoulder tension can be chronic. Left unchecked, we can get used to the discomfort and not even realize how much it’s restricting our movements. Of course, if we don’t do anything about it, at some point, it is likely to become quite painful and even cause headaches, backaches, and other problems.
Yoga offers us wonderful techniques to help us become aware of what’s going on in our bodies. Even simple neck exercises, gently turning the head from one side to the other, help us become aware of tension that may have built up around the shoulders and neck. We may be able to turn our head to one side easily, whereas the other side feels tight and doesn’t move as freely.
The key to making yoga poses work for you lies in noticing how you feel whenever you are practicing. This valuable feedback should guide your practice—what poses you do and how you do them. For example, if the left side of your neck is tight when you turn your head to the right, you might want to hold it longer on that side and perhaps massage the tight muscles to see if you can get them to release. Take the time to do this—to wait, to release, and to stretch out the tension. Turn your head to the other side, and then come back to the first side and repeat the process. It’s certainly worth spending a couple of minutes to release tension in the areas where you need it most. You’ll feel much better—and you’ll prevent it from getting worse.
It’s so important to practice asanas with awareness. It’s not about getting through a certain number of poses in a session or being able to do every pose. It’s about looking inward, observing, and using your asana practice to give your body what it needs to feel good.
Our asana of the week, Double Angle Pose is also good for releasing shoulder tension, especially if you sit or drive a lot and tend to hunch forward. If you don’t want to bend forward in the pose, just stand with your hands clasped behind your back and raise your arms a little, feeling the opening in the front of the shoulders.