End-of-Year Challenge, Part 3: releasing neck and shoulder yoga

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I hope you enjoyed the previous 2 challenges, the exercises as well as the discipline of doing them regularly. If you have only managed the exercises once or twice a week, it’s a good start. If you haven’t even started the daily challenges, it’s never too late! Let’s dive right in this part 3 of our end-of-year challenge. Many of us have tight shoulders and neck muscles, often due to stress, habitual holding patterns and sitting hunched over a desk. Try to do some of these releasing neck and shoulder yoga movements every day to feel more relaxed and free in the upper part of your body.

When doing the stretches below, choose the number of repetitions that feels right for you, and don’t allow any movement to hurt. As you probably know by now, pain does not give you any gain!

Neck stretches:

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A. In a sitting position, exhale and lower the right ear to the right shoulder. Inhale and bring the head back to the centre. Move the left ear to the left shoulder with the next exhalation and repeat in time with your breathing. You can hold each stretch for a few moments too, breathing into the stretch and feeling how the muscles may be a little more willing to ‘let go’ with every exhalation.

 

 

 

 

B. With the right ear near the right shoulder, exhale and do a half neck roll, keeping the chin close to the chest so you stretch the back and sides of your neck. Inhale while staying with the left ear near the left shoulder. Exhale and “roll” back the same way.

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C. Exhale and lower the chin towards the throat, tilting the head on the top vertebra and keeping the neck fairly straight. Inhale and bring the chin up without straining the neck or bringing the head back.

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D. Exhale and look over to the right; inhale and return the head to the centre; exhale and look over to the other side. It’s a simple movement; just breathe and enjoy the stretch.

 

 

 

 

 

Kneeling shoulder movements:

Sitting on a chair also works for all these shoulder exercises. The first one is not appropriate if you have  back pain due to a herniated disc.

Arms back
Clasp your hands behind you and move the body forward and the hands towards the ceiling. Inhale to come up and repeat.

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Shoulder lifts
Inhale and lift both shoulders, exhale and “drop” them both with a sigh. Repeat; it feels good to sigh and feel the heavy weight on your shoulders lighten a little!

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Pectorals stretch
Clasp both hands and rest them behind your back, bend the elbows. Exhale and bring the elbows a bit closer together, inhale and return to the neutral position. Repeat a few times and then hold the stretch, up to 60 or 90 seconds.

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Eagle arms
-start by wrapping your arms around you.
-bring your hands up so the back of the hands touch.
-if possible hook your hands around.
-breathe the shoulders down, the elbows up and hands away form the face.

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Rotating shoulders and arms

Place one hand on each shoulder and rotate the elbows in nice big circles and in both directions.

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Lying shoulder and upper back movements:
A. Lying on the right side with the legs bent and quite close to the chest, place both arms straight in front of you with the palms touching. With an exhalation slide the top hand further away from you, keeping both arms straight. Inhale and return to the starting position. Make sure your head is relaxing down. If it can’t reach the mat then use a cushion under your head.

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B. (not appropriate if you have pain due a herniated disc) From the same position and with both palms together, bring the top arm in a half circle along the floor to the other side. If you had the numbers of a clock around you, you would move your hand from 9 o’clock along the top half to 3 o’clock. It does not matter if your hand cannot stay on the floor. As long as this movement does not hurt you can enjoy the stretch for the chest muscles and shoulders. After a few repetitions of the half circle, stay in the open-arm position for a few breaths.

Repeat both movements lying on your other side.

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Enjoy these shoulder and neck releases, and keep an eye out for the last challenge in two weeks’ time! Not subscribed yet and in need of regular yoga tips? Do subscribe in the box on the side and get your free guide about how to keep your back safe at home.

Namaste

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