Yogamama: Easing a Stiff Neck
Loosen up your head with this great pose.
By Karri Jinkins
Waking up with a stiff neck, unable to turn my head from side to side, is by far my least favorite kind of morning. This happened to me in June when I was planning a visit to a friend in the Catskills. After a terrible night’s sleep on an even more terrible pillow, my neck was so stiff I worried that I wouldn’t be able to drive since I wouldn’t be able to check my blind spot.
As with many body aches, such stiffness can be traced to stress, but it also can stem from sleeping the wrong way, hunching over a computer at work, or just talking on the phone at length with the receiver wedged between your ear and shoulder. Here is a very simple posture that can help relax muscles and create a bit of space between the vertebrae of the neck.
Prasarita Padottanasana C (wide-legged intense foot stretch):
Start with your feet about 3 to 4 feet apart and your hands gently resting on your hips. As you inhale, slowly stretch your arms and hands out to your sides and lift the arms so that they are in line with your shoulders. Exhale, drop your arms behind you, and interlock your fingers. Inhale gently, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and lift your chin and chest up a bit as you draw your hands together firmly.
Exhale and fold forward, bringing your head toward the floor. If you can place your head on the floor, great; if not, just stay at your point of resistance and begin to move your arms away from your body, giving your upper chest and shoulders a nice and gentle stretch. (You can also place a block on the floor and rest your head on the block.) Stay here for about 10 breaths and feel each breath. On each inhale you should feel your cervical vertebrae moving apart a bit, and hopefully spacing out a little. After the 10 breaths, inhale and slowly raise your torso back up. Exhale, bringing your hands back to your hips. If you have very tight hamstrings that will make this pose too uncomfortable, feel free to do the same thing with your feet hip-distance apart, or in a seated position in a chair.
Karri Jinkins’ archetypes are Spiritual + Caregiver + Athlete. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, she is a writer, teacher of Ashtanga yoga and meditation with 15-plus years experience, and cofounder of Yogamat Clothing, an eco-friendly, made-in-the-USA, sweatshop-free line of activewear. Karri enjoys many things other than yoga, not all of which are necessarily good for you. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter @karrijinkins.