YOGA FOR OPENING THE NECK AND UPPER BACK: A Fifth Chakra Flow
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
How often are you on the computer or your phone throughout the day? If you are like me, most of the day!! Many of us sit for work and are on a computer and as the hours set in, so does the slouching! Am I right? It is so difficult if you are at a desk and typing all day to keep proper posture. So what happens after day in and day out of repetitive slouching? A lot of neck, upper back and shoulder pain.....the space of our Fifth Chakra.
Our Fifth Chakra, our Throat Chakra, is responsible for our shoulders, neck and throat. Our muscles of our neck connect to the muscles in our shoulders, upper chest and upper back. So, often if you have a pain or tightness in the neck, you will often feel it in one of the other areas of the upper body. This also means our Fifth and Fourth Chakras are closely connected.
If you need a recap on the Throat Chakra, check out my blog post that goes into more detail about it here...
To help open and release our muscles around our Fifth Chakra, there are some postures and a breathing technique that I have listed below! Scroll down and check them out!
Our pranayama (breathing technique) this week is our Ujjayi Breath (oo-jah-ee). Also known as the Victorious Breath or the Ocean Breath. This breath is used often throughout yoga and meditation. It connects mind and body. It is very relaxing for the body and the nervous system. It also warms our body. It sends oxygen to our muscles, releases tension and stress.....very helpful during our yoga practice! The breath takes place in and out the nose with a gentle constriction at the back of the throat. As your breath passes over your soft palate in your mouth and your constricted throat, it makes an ocean wave sound. I've heard students refer to it as the Darth Vader breath too!
This breath is excellent for our Throat Chakras for many reasons. First, the breath is specifically filling through our throat before passing into our lungs. It passes through the purification channel of our Throat Chakra. Second, there is a sound to our breath with Ujjayi breathing. Sound is the element of the Fifth Chakra. Finally, using this breath with our postures and flow can help to reduce tension in our muscles, even in the neck, shoulders and upper back.
And now for the postures...
SEATED NECK STRETCH
Take a comfortable seat on the floor, cross-legged, or on a chair. Root down through your First Chakra, your tailbone and sitz bones. Sit up tall. Shoulders drop down away from the ears. Place your left arm out to the side, resting on the fingertips. Lift your right arm up and over, gently placing your hand onto the left side of the head. Slowly and mindfully draw your right ear towards your right shoulder, opening up the left side of the neck, the left shoulder and the left upper back. Stay for 5-10 breaths, then switch to the other side!
REVERSE WARRIOR POSE - VIPARITA VIRABHADRASANA
Starting from a standing position, take a step back with your left foot. Pivot your left foot so that it is parallel with the back of your mat. Bend into the front knee, not allowing it to come out past your ankle. The hips, torso, shoulders are all opening to the left. Bring arms out to a T-shape. Lift the right arm up, opening the chest. The left arm can rest on the back of the left leg or it can bind behind the low back. The shoulders drop down away from the ears. Our gaze lifts, which allows an opening to the front of the throat. Careful to not strain the neck though. Take 5 breaths then switch to the opposite side!
REVOLVED SIDE ANGLE POSE- PARIVRTTA PARSVAKONASANA
From a standing position at the top of your mat, take a step back with the right foot, staying on the ball of the right foot. The right leg is straight. The left knee bends staying in line with your ankle. With the torso up tall, bring hands to heart center. INHALE first and then as you EXHALE start to twist the torso to the left, bringing the right elbow to the left knee. Press the hands together actively. Drop the shoulders away from the ears. Neck is long and gaze is up towards the ceiling as long as you are not straining through the neck. Breathe for 5 breaths. Then switch! ** if this version is too advanced, you can do this entire posture in a low lunge position with the right knee down onto the mat.
After your practice, pause and notice how you feel! You might be surprised that you feel more open and less tight through the neck, upper back and shoulders. You might also feel better after using your Ujjayi breath! Practice and consistency are key!