WHY IS NECK TENSION SO PREVALENT?

Doctor Yogi helps us beat it
PHOTO: LYUBA BURAKOVA/STOCKSY

Neck tension has become a very common part of modern day life for so many people and can have a big impact on our energy levels, mental clarity and general wellbeing.

What is the cause?

  • A lack of mobility in the upper back (thoracic spine), shoulder joint and shoulder girdle can cause the neck to overcompensate and lead to strain.
  • Clenching our jaw when we are stressed or grinding our teeth at night can lead to jaw tension which in turn also leads to neck tension.
  • Holding the head in a forward position (commonly referred to as ‘text neck’) increases the force that the weight of the head puts on the cervical spine and can lead to hyper-tonicity of the neck muscles to hold the head in that position.
  • Not regularly moving the cervical spine in its full range of controlled movement can weaken the neck musculature which the nervous system responds to by creating hyper-tonicity in order to make the area more stable.
  • Bearing too much weight on the head during headstand (for all you yogis out there) can cause wear and tear to the top two cervical vertebrae.Likewise, not maintaining the natural curve of the neck during shoulderstand can strain the posterior longitudinal ligament leading to instability.
  • Psychologically we ‘carry the weight of the world on our shoulders’ and tense our shoulders when we are stressed or anxious, which has a knock-on effect on the neck.

7 ways to tackle neck tension

1 Focus on increasing the full range of controlled movement of your thoracic spine, shoulder joint and shoulder girdle as part of a daily yoga practice.

2 Start to notice when you are clenching your jaw on and off the mat and massage this area each morning to release tension.

3 Become aware of your head position on and off the mat and become accustomed to correcting the alignment.

4 Regularly move your neck through its full range of movement in a controlled way to increase mobility and reduce hyper-tonicity.

5 During shoulderstand maintain the natural curve of your neck by gently keeping your chin lifted or better still practice with your shoulders supported on a yoga blanket.

6 During headstand avoid putting too much weight on the head particularly when transitioning in and out of the asana.

7 Avoid dropping your head back during your practice but maintain the length of your neck as you extend your neck in a controlled way.

About the author:

Andrew McGonigle, also known as Doctor Yogi, originally trained as a medical doctor but moved away from western medicine to pursue a career as a yoga teacher, massage therapist and anatomy teacher. Andrew has been practising yoga and meditation for over 12 years and teaching strong, grounding, alignment based classes since 2009. He combines all of his skills to teach anatomy and physiology on Yoga Teacher Training courses across London and internationally and contributes monthly to Om Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine with his anatomy feature 360° Yoga.

Andrew has worked closely with Psycle to develop our popular new FIX classes and supports our teachers with his renowned anatomy trainings.

doctor-yogi.com

Facebook: @doctoryogiandrew

Instagram: @doctoryogi81

Twitter: @doctoryogi1

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