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The phrase “stiff necked” means “stubborn” . And who wouldn’t be, when one of the most important parts of your body is tense and uncomfortable?

Our necks are constantly in use and unfortunately often ignored. We stretch our shoulders, lower, middle and upper back, but sometimes forget to show love to the critical portion of our spine that keeps our head connected!

Yoga offers tools to create strength and flexibility in our neck. Literally, softening our stiff necks so we can be more adaptive, receptive and mobile. You’ll see the difference when you add these five yoga poses to your practice.forward_bend

Prasarita padottanasana (Wide-legged forward bend)

Doing a wide-legged forward bend is the yoga equivalent of hanging upside down from the monkey bars. It lets gravity grab hold of you and stretch your spine and neck, creating space and flexibility. The key is to take a good, wide stance then fold forward from the hips, keeping your spine straight and letting the weight of your head pull you towards the floor. Keep your belly tight, thighs engaged and weight forward on your toes to permit maximum extension through the neck.

Ardha Kurmasana (Half-tortoise pose)

This is a fantastic pose for stretching your whole spine from sacrum to neck. Make sure you go into the posture with a long, flat back. Once your fingertips reach the floor you can relax your forehead onto the floor. This is where the stretch really begins to work. Press your palms together to activate your arms, work your hips down towards your heels and continuously reach forward, elongating and releasing your neck.

Gomukhasana (Cow Face pose)

Cow face pose deeply stretches and opens the muscles in our shoulders, sending a positive ripple effect up and down our spine. To begin, stretch your right arm up next to your right ear, and your left arm down by your left side. Bend your left arm behind the back and up, reaching your fingers towards the middle of the shoulder blades, palm out. Bend the right elbow back, palm in, reaching down to grasp your left fingers. Use a strap to work into the stretch if you can’t reach your fingers. Eventually, you should be able to hook your fingers together, creating a profound stretch.cool-down-ig

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Spine Twisting Pose)

It is important to work your neck through a full range of motion every day, that means up, down and side-to-side. Spine twisting pose is a fantastic posture for increasing the flexibility of your whole spine, right through the top of the neck. The important thing to remember is to keep your head level. Don’t cheat by throwing your chin over your shoulder; it can do more harm than good.

Savasana (Corpse pose)

Our neck gets tense when we are tense. Taking time to relax and meditate in savasana is essential to calm the whole body and break the cycle of physical tension. You can do savasana at the end of your practice, or any time of the day when you have a few minutes and need to ground yourself and focus. The more you are able to consciously release tension from your whole body the looser and happier your neck will be!

Questions or thoughts? Share in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul