WELLNESS
02/25/2016 11:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cultivating the Opposite: Yoga for Healthy Necks and Shoulders

by guest blogger Holly Walck Kostura, BSN and certified Iyengar Yoga teacher

Laptops, smartphones, planes, trains and automobiles all contribute to the "slumpy grumpy" appearance that so many of us are wearing on our souls these days -- and it's not a good look.

You know that look: shoulders rolling forward, a tight, collapsed chest and a hardened, puffed out abdomen. Like this:

This way of being not only places the nerves in the upper back and neck in at risk, but can also lead to shallow breathing, poor digestion, and problems with elimination.

In the following yoga sequence we are going to practice what Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, calls "paksha pratipaksha," which means to cultivate the opposite of something. In this case we will practice asanas that counteract the "slumpy grumpy" state of the body/mind with asanas that make the tight muscles (pectorals, anterior deltoids, upper trapezius) looser, and the weak ones (triceps, rhomboids, posterior paraspinals, lower trapezius) stronger--so that we stand with dignity and joy, like this:

Then, instead of looking all slumpy and grumpy, we'll LOOK strong and happy. And maybe, if Candace Pert, author of Molecules of Emotion is correct, and what we think affects how we feel, which impacts how the systems of our body function, then we will BE strong and happy.

Yours in yoga,

Holly

Yoga for Healthy Necks and Shoulders

Prepare with shoulder warming/opening

Upward Worship Pose (Utthita Hastasana)

Proceed to: A quick yoga fix on the chair for people who sit in chairs ALL DAY.

Upward Bound Fingers Pose (Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana)

Bharadvaja's Twist (Bharadvajasana I)

Hip flexor stretch

Warrior Heart Vinyasa (Virabhadrasana Vinyasa)
  • Standing Locust Pose (Utthita Salabhasana) into Warrior Pose I (Virabhadrasana I) into Warrior Pose III (Virabhadrasana III)

Take on: Prone back bending--mild, medium, intense and supremely intense!

Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

Crocodile Pose (Makarasana)

Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

One Legged Big Toe Bow Pose (Eka Pada Padangustha Dhanurasana)

The undoing:

Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana), holding the ankles

Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana), sitting quietly for 5 minutes

The non-doing:

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Holly Walck Kostura uses the healing practices of Ayurveda and Iyengar Yoga to secure her to the core of her being. Combining her bachelor's degree in nursing with her certification in Iyengar Yoga gives her the ability to approach her students from a place of wholeness and infuse her yoga classes with a unique flavor. Find her online at yogawithholly.com.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com