The platform from which we view and perceive the world
The neck and shoulders form the upper mantle to our bodies, providing the platform from which we view and perceive the world.
The human body is not designed to sit still for extended periods, and yet this is precisely the environment prevailing in most office workplaces today.
Sitting with poor or incorrect posture can place undue stress on the spine, neck and shoulders, causing pain and discomfort, which if unchecked can lead to reduced clarity of vision, headaches and migraines, which in turn translate to low productivity.
There are however a number or measures and precautions we can take to help prevent or alleviate tension and pain in the upper body.
The health and wellbeing benefits from the regular practice of hatha yoga are plentiful and well-known, but little is it understood about how the right combination of poses can be used to target sore and weak areas. Try these three poses to help relieve neck and shoulder pain. Ensure you use a yoga mat to maintain stability and to stop yourself from slipping.
Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Benefits: Stretches out the hard to reach muscles between the shoulder blades, releases the shoulder girdle, improves balance and draws your awareness inwards.
- Starting from a standing position, bend your knees slightly, lifting your left leg up and placing your left thigh across the top of your right. Hook your left foot behind your right calf, with your toes pointing towards the floor.
- Hold your arms straight out in front of you, parallel with the floor. Cross your left arm over the right, slowly bend your elbows so that your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your right elbow sits firmly in the crook of your left.
- Push the backs of your hands together, and if possible move your hands past one another so that your palms face each other. Ensure that your elbows don’t drop towards the ground, and that fingers are pointed at the ceiling.
- Breathe and hold the pose for 15-30 seconds before repeating with the arms and legs swapped.
Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
Benefits: Stretches the front and sides of the shoulders and chest area, allows for deeper breathing into the lungs.
- Sit with legs together and your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Slide your left foot underneath your right knee so that it sits to the outside of the right hip. Move your right leg over your left, stacking the right knee on top of the left and bringing your right foot outside your left hip. Use your hands to pull your feet closer to your hips if needed, taking care that you’re still sitting evenly across the pelvis.
- Stretch your right arm straight out to the right and rotate your shoulder so your palm faces back behind you. Bend at the elbow, bringing your hand up against your back so that it sits in the middle of your spine.
- Stretch your left arm out towards your left then raise it up towards the ceiling. Bend your left arm at the elbow so you can reach your left hand down to grasp the right. If joining your hands isn’t possible, you can hold on to either end of a yoga strap until you’ve built up strength and flexibility. Lift your left elbow towards the ceiling, while pulling your right elbow towards the floor to feel it more fully in the shoulder girdle.
- Breathe and hold for 45-60 seconds before repeating the pose with arms and legs swapped. Take care that your lower arm corresponds with the leg that is on top.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Benefits: Strengthens and stabilises the upper back, shoulders and neck, stretches the calves, hamstrings and wrists, strengthens the core muscles gently.
- Lower onto your hands and knees on your yoga mat. Ensure that your knees are squarely below your hips, and your hands are slightly forward of your shoulders, fingers pointing forwards.
- Lift your knees from the floor, keeping them slightly bent and your heels off the floor. Lengthen your back and spine, lifting your pelvis towards the ceiling.
- Push your top thighs backwards, and stretch your heels onto or towards the floor. Slowly start to straighten your knees, but be careful not to overextend or lock them.
- Firm your upper arms, and push through your fingers towards the floor. Draw your shoulder blades down and against your back, while keeping your head steady between your upper arms, taking care not to let it drop.
- Breathe and hold this pose for 1-3 minutes before slowly bending at the knees and returning to the floor. Repeat a few times if desired.
And remember, as with all exercise, you need to listen to your body, keep the back of the neck and spine lengthened and the rib cage lifted. Remember to breathe as you work with the different exercises.
Whether you’re a yoga beginner or a seasoned professional looking to upgrade your equipment, ensuring that your yoga equipment is of a high-quality is essential for gaining the most out of your poses and stretches. We have a wide range of yoga mats, blocks, straps and other products, including a number of complete yoga packages designed to help you get all the necessary gear in one simple step. Check online to view our extensive collection of high-quality, 100% eco-friendly yoga mats and equipment.
A soft, well-crafted yoga bolster can be used to further stretch out the muscles and joints in the upper back and shoulders. Lying on your yoga mat face up, simply place the bolster below your shoulder blades and lean back, lengthening your chest and neck so that your head reaches towards the floor. This stretch offers a simple and easy way to relieve pressure on the spine and shoulders after a long day of sitting at the computer.
Our Yoga Bolsters are the perfect aid, providing a solid yet comfortable base on which to stretch and exercise. Stuffed firmly with environmentally-friendly cotton, they come with a zippered, washable 100% organic cotton cover.
Bring your yoga practice home with you with our wide range of DVDs and books. Bob Anderson’s seminal publication Stretching is a complete guide to reducing muscle tension, help co-ordination, develop body awareness, improve circulation, prevent injuries and more. The book is clearly organised for easy use, and provides images and diagrams for each individual stretch.
For a more instructional approach, we stock a number of DVDs which can help provide targeted and general relief from neck and shoulder pain, all from the comfort of your lounge room. Check out Yoga for Back Care, Flexibility Yoga , Strength Building Yoga and Rodney Yee's Yoga for Beginners for further information on these and other great titles.