“OMG, I’m doing it right now!” I thought.
I had just taken a yoga class, and went to grab some lunch and write for a bit. After I finished my lunch and opened up my computer, I noticed it.
I had one elbow on the high-top table in front of me with my hand under my chin. To rest my chin on my hand, I had to hunch over. I was starting to write about upper back pain, and here I was slouching and feeling it.
The backless bar stool I was using gave me no support, and my feet were so far from the floor that I had nothing to root into so that I could lift my spine. So being the yogini that I am, I moved the chair back so I could bring my sit bones to the front edge of the chair, pressed my feet into the chair bar, lifted from my low belly through my sternum, and drew my shoulder blades down my back. Ahhh, much better.
You see, problems in the upper back and neck can happen so easily. You might droop over a computer all day. When you’re not on the computer you’re probably hunched over your phone. Then, you’re so tired you come home and slump on to the couch. Sometimes you might even get on your phone or computer while slouching on the couch (gasp!).
Even when you have the best of intentions, it’s easy to unconsciously slip into positions that can make your upper back and neck sore.
Sometimes life and emotional factors play a bigger role than we realize. Maybe you’re dealing with a loss, and you just feel the need to hunch your shoulders to close and protect your heart. I get that (check out my post How Restorative Yoga Prepares You For The Hard Stuff). You might feel the weight of the world on your shoulders as you work to provide for your family. You could be worried about your child’s safety at school. Maybe your relationship feels rocky. You might want to hang your head just from watching the news.
Stay slumped long enough, your upper body gets used to being hunched, your heart takes refuge in its cage, and you take on that rounded shape.
And here’s the kicker. When your upper body and neck round and compress, it can affect your arms, elbows, wrists, hands, shoulders, head, sinuses, breathing, heart, nervous system, mental health, and more.
It takes conscious, consistent practice, on and off the mat, to keep your neck and upper body happy, healthy, open, and strong.
So what can you do about it? The ancient texts tell us that you have the power to reduce future suffering, and yoga gives us lots of tools. Here are a few quick tricks to dump the slump and unfurl to joy:
Take regular breaks away from your computer. Clasp your hands, then stretch your palms away and up over your head, or bring your hands behind you and towards your head as you bend forward.
Sit consciously. Plant both feet. Lift the low belly and chest, and draw the shoulder blades down the back. Relax the neck and throat. Soften the tongue and the jaw.
Open the heart. Lay down with a bolster under the shoulder blades and arms overhead. Or use a block or blanket roll at the back of the heart. If needed, support your head with a blanket so that you can swallow easily.
Write it out. Let out those emotions that you’re storing in the back of the heart, that are weighing you down, and that are making your heart close. Or simply write a gratitude list.
Meditate. Meditate. Meditate. Release those thoughts, fears, concerns, and worries that cause your heart to close. Be in the present, and learn to trust.
I know, I know, easier said than done. Remember any amount of practice, physical or other, helps. Take baby steps if you need to. You're worth it.
Speak Your Truth
What kind of upper back and neck problems have you had? What have you tried that helps your neck and upper body feel better and stay strong, healthy, and open? What other therapeutic offerings would you like to see? What other parts of the body would you like help with? Let me know in the comments or a quick e-mail!
In wellness, joy, and inspiration,
P.S. If you're in Charlotte please join me in my upcoming workshop, Unfurling to Joy: Rope Wall Care for Your Neck and Upper Back, on Saturday, August 10, 12:30-3:30 p.m. at The Yoga Center at 8th Street Studio/Iyengar Yoga Charlotte. Register soon as space is limited!