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- Harvard Health Publications: Yoga: Good for the Mind, But How About the Body?
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Yoga for Health: An Introduction
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Yoga Poses to Banish Neck & Shoulder Pain
Practicing yoga on a consistent basis provides numerous health and therapeutic benefits, including weight loss, improved fitness and pain management. If you have chronic shoulder and neck pain, specific yoga poses can help relieve your symptoms in a natural, non-invasive and gentle manner in the privacy and convenience of your own home.
The child’s pose, formally called Balasana, is one of the easier and less complicated postures to relieve neck and shoulder pain. Start by kneeling on the floor with your feet touching and your knees hip-width apart before sitting on your heels. While exhaling, slowly lower your torso towards the ground to finally settle between your thighs and knees. Lay your arms back towards your feet with your palms up, stretch your neck forward before setting your forehead on the ground and relax your shoulders so that they pull wide across your back and towards the floor. This is a resting pose, so Yoga Journal advises holding it for at least a few minutes while breathing deeply.
Cow and Cat Poses
The cow and cat poses, respectively Bitilasana and Marjaryasana, may be performed separately, but they are often performed together in continuous motion. To start with the cow pose, rest on your hands and knees with your back in the neutral flat “tabletop” position and your neck in line so that you are looking at the floor. With an inhale, lift your chest and buttocks towards the ceiling, raise your head to look straight forward and let your belly drop. As you exhale, you can return to “tabletop” or transition immediately into the cat pose by rounding your spine towards the ceiling and dropping your head towards the floor. However, do not overextend your neck as your chin should not touch your neck. Perform these poses several times to stretch and warm your neck, shoulders and spine.
According to Yoga Journal, the dolphin pose opens the shoulders while strengthening your arms, legs and core. Begin by sitting on your knees and leaning forward so that your hands and forearms are on the floor with your palms facing down. Slowly lift your knees away from the floor as you exhale, reaching your tailbone towards the ceiling and pressing your forearms into the ground. Keep your knees slightly bent if you are not flexible enough to fully straighten them, and do not let your head rest heavily on the ground. Hold the pose for up to a minute before bending your knees towards the ground.
Yoga is considered a low-risk exercise and therapy, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; however, never hold a pose that causes pain or spasms. If possible, attend a local beginner yoga class where a certified instructor can correct or modify your poses depending on the severity or location of your neck and shoulder pain. You can also purchase therapeutic yoga videos that focus entirely on the neck or shoulders for extended practice.
- Lexi Cooper/Demand Media