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5 Simple Exercises That'll Help Banish Neck Pain

 It can be difficult to place your finger on the exact cause of your neck pain: Was it last night's weird sleeping position, or that persistent kink due to your texting habit? Complicating the matter further is the fact that neck tension can come from elsewhere in your body too. Sarah Girard, a NYC-based yoga teacher and national director of meditation and beginner's yoga for Bootcamp Republic states that "our neck muscles are woven down into our shoulders, so the muscles in our shoulder girdle also affect the mobility or even stiffness of our neck."

 

You can release the tension in your neck with these exercises that target both neck and shoulder muscles. Move through the following postures slowly, so that you are able to feel the subtleties of each movement. Hold each pose for at least 3-5 breaths, but feel free to hold for longer if you like.

Neck Circles 
Photo - Sarah Girard 
According to Girard, this exercise can be used to assess your neck's ability. Draw your chin into your chest, and take your right ear over to your right shoulder. As you lift your head, gaze up at the ceiling so that your head is gently tilting backwards. Soften your jaw, bring your left ear over your shoulder, then draw your chin towards your chest. Repeat these circles twice, then reverse the directions. However, make sure not to drop your head all the way back, as this could cause compression in the spine.
Neck Release 
Photo - Sarah Girard 
Girard suggests using this exercise to release the trapezius muscles at the base of your neck. With your right hand by your side, bend your elbow - keeping it close to your waist - and then rotate your arm away from your center. Keep your arm in this position, and tilt your left ear over your left shoulder. Hold this position for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on your other side.
 
Second Chest Opener
Photo - Sarah Girard
Sitting for long periods of time can cause your chest and shoulders to slump. Girard states that "this exercise helps to counteract that rounding, so the neck can elongate." To carry out this exercise, shift your behind forward to the front of your chair. Slide your hands down to the back edge of the chair, and get a firm grasp of the seat behind you - keeping your hands at least shoulder-width apart. Draw your shoulder blades towards one another to broaden through your collarbones. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
 
Seated Spinal Twist 
Photo - Sarah Girard 
Twisting helps strengthen and mobilize the muscles we use to turn our head and spine. To do this exercise, sit on the right side of your chair, and reach around to your right to hold onto the back of the seat. Bring your feet together, and use your arms to turn your torso toward the chair, keeping your legs together as you rotate. To complete the spiral of the spine, turn your head over your right shoulder. Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.

 

Forward Fold 
Photo - Sarah Girard
Hanging forward like this will help decompress the cervical vertebrae. Shift your behind forward to the front of the chair. Separate your feet, bringing them wider than your hips. Fold your torso over your legs, and let your head and arms dangle. Hold for 3-5 breaths. To exit this pose, walk your hands onto your legs, and use your arms to press yourself back up to sit. Don't do this exercise if you have high blood pressure, cataracts, ocular trauma, disk herniation in the lumbar spine, or osteoporosis with advanced bone loss.
 
Cover image courtesy of Depositphotos
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