What did you do the last time you had a stiff neck or shoulders?
While all of these can definitely help* – especially when combined together- there’s a Japanese yoga approach you can use that’s slightly different yet highly effective.
You build tension in order to release tension.
What does this mean?
Take -for instance- your stiff neck and shoulders.
Your first instinct could be to tilt or rotate the head side to side- to stretch it out a bit.
How about before you do the stretching part, you first build up a bit of tension?
Step 1: With your chin facing forwards (pointing neither up nor down), shrug the shoulders as you inhale. Hold the breath and hold the squeeze for as long as you can.
Step 2: Exhale and let the shoulders drop heavily
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 up to 3-5 times, lifting the shoulders a little higher each time and emphasising the drop (make sure the chin stays straight)
Notice how there’s instantly some tension released just from doing this.
Now you’ve built up some tension, you’re ready for the stretch:
Step 1: Pull one arm in front of the body and hold with the opposite hand. Keep both shoulders square to the front.
Step 2: Gently bring your ear to shoulder (point head in same direction as the arm going across the body)
Step 3: Breathe deeply and hold for 30-60 secs, looking up towards the ceiling if you can.
Step 4: Repeat on the other side
There’s one other Japanese yoga ‘secret’ not many people know when it comes to neck and shoulder tension: sugar goes straight to the neck.
If you’re prone to neck and shoulder issues, cutting out sugar from your diet will do wonders- and is critical for good results.
By sugar -I mean sugar in all its forms.
-refined sugar in sweets
-fermented sugars in alcohol and kombucha (sorry kombucha fans!)
If you’re not sure how to quit sugar, check out this blog for some gentle tips.
I really encourage you to give it a go and see how it feels for you.
Let me know in the comments ☺
*Please see a health professional if your neck and shoulder pain (or any physical pain) is chronic, it affects your mobility, there’s an underlying condition or it simply doesn’t ‘feel’ right.
**(Ice Blue Rub is a pure essential oil blend known to support muscle tension. It really works! More info here.