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Free Your Neck and Shoulders With Yoga

04/30/2015 12:31 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2015

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We're all familiar with the effects of a stressful day on our neck and shoulders.

Scenario #1

It's 4 p.m. and you've been sitting at your computer for more than half the day. You notice that your shoulders have been creeping up to your ears for the past few hours and your neck is slowly disappearing. Your neck and shoulders feel tense, sore and heavy.

Scenario #2

You've spent most of the day managing your work and home life from your smartphone. As you look up to take a break, you are struck by how sore your neck feels. It's a sensation that people are calling "text neck." You weren't even aware of your body until now and it hurts. Sound Familiar?

In both these scenarios, tension and energy are trapped in the neck and shoulders, and your body is screaming for attention. The neck is the pathway between the head and the heart. When the neck is tense and sore, the energy between them is interrupted. When the head and heart aren't communicating there isn't a balance between our thinking life and our feeling life. How can we restore movement, keep the energy flowing, so there is balance and communication? Here are some things you can do to improve your body mechanics and open up the flow of energy between the heart and the head.

Improve Your Seated Posture While Working at the Computer

Make sure that you are sitting up and not slouching. In an article published by the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Jack Dennerlein, an adjunct professor of ergonomics and safety at the Harvard School of Public Health suggests, "sitting up straight with your head level, not bent forward, and the top of your monitor positioned just below eye level. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your body. Sit in a chair with good lumbar support. Dr. Dennerlein also suggests placing a pillow against the small of your back if you don't have a special chair. Keep your hands, wrists, forearms, and thighs parallel to the floor." Being aware of your seated posture not only helps reduce pain, but it also frees up the diaphragm muscle so that breathing is deeper and more relaxed. This alone can change the way you think and feel.

Pause Often to Do Some Neck and Shoulder Exercises

A daily yoga practice that includes neck and shoulder exercises is extremely helpful in managing symptoms of tension. In addition, bringing these practices into your workday can have added benefit. Even just turning your head from side to side can help relieve discomforts that collect in these target areas at the end of the day. Dr. Ken Hansraj, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, New York states in this article that "an adult head weighs 10-12 pounds in a neutral position, but by tilting it forward, the forces it exerts on the neck can surge--up to 60 pounds when the head is tilted by 60 degrees. This can lead to wear and tear in the joints of the neck and possibly surgeries." Knowing this, we can offset these issues with a daily routine that restores range of motion to the neck and shoulders and allows us to bring more awareness to the way we hold ourselves.

Breath from Head to Toe

The breath is a powerful tool for managing stress and releasing tension. While sitting at your computer, let your awareness shift onto your breathing every 15 to 20 minutes. Take several long conscious breaths as you imagine the breath moving from head to toe. Breath and energy work together. When we breathe deeply, it distributes energy to our body and creates a flow that can unblock stagnant patterns that accumulate from lack of movement and poor posture. Just this simple "top to toe" breathing can open up the communication and flow between the heart and the head.

Shift to Your Heart

The more you can shift your awareness to your heart, the less you will find yourself "stuck in your head." Resting your awareness in your heart can be very balancing to the constant influx of external impressions and media. This can relieve that feeling of pressure and tension in the neck and head that occurs when we spend too much time on our devices. It can bring that much needed balance to your body and your life by increasing the flow of energy in the heart. When the neck and shoulders are relaxed, the heart and head can be in harmony creating a sense of balance and well being.

How do you take care of your head and neck when you've been sitting at your desk or typing on your smart phone too long?

This post was originally published on Ornish Living.