If you’re suffering from shoulder or neck pain, here’s a simple solution that can help to alleviate most, if not all, of that discomfort. First, let’s talk about what the problem is. Many of our jobs have us leaning forward over our work. Whether you’re working at a desk, on a computer, you’re a butcher or an artist. And then don’t forget about our smart devices that have us in this amazing posture, scrolling mindlessly for endless hours of meaningful content. No judgment. Of course I do it, too.
What’s happening in all of those situations is a shortening tightness in the front of the body, which is rounding our spine and taking our head forward and a lengthening tightness in the back of the body. Now you’ll want to run and go get a massage, which would be a good choice. You might also be tempted to go to a yoga class and stretch out the back of your neck, which would also be a good choice. But ultimately, what we really need to do is figure out a way to shorten up the long muscles of the back and lengthen the short muscles of the front so that we can bring our spine into nice, efficient alignment. Well, how do we do that? Fish pose.
Fish pose supposedly was invented maybe 5000 years ago, but is needed now more than ever. We’re going to need two yoga blocks or a blanket that’s rolled up a little thicker than a yoga block and maybe a throw pillow.
Let’s get on to our mat. Get your props, and I’ll see you there.
So remember, it’s a two part problem that’s causing us this shoulder neck pain too short in the front too long in the back. We can fix one of those problems in a passive variation of fish pose. I’m going to take one block At its medium height, you might need to go a level lower. You also might be using your rolled up blanket. Instead, get your other block or your pillow handy. So coming on to my back, I have the bottom of my shoulder blades line up with the bottom of that block. Get your other block or pillow ready in hand. I’ll drop the head back. Maybe the head can touch the ground. Or if the ground is too far away, you can prop the head up on a block. You want the block as low as you possibly can Have it. Here you can see how I’m stretching out through this frontline of the body, which, as I mentioned, is half the problem that we experience in shoulder and neck pain.
Now I am shortening the back of my neck muscles, but I’m not strengthening the back of my neck muscles, which means that eventually I’m going to have to be able to do this pose without the block. A typical setting up for fish pose, straight legs, point through the toes, start with your elbows right below the shoulders and then lift your chest to the sky. I want the head to drop back and then eventually I want to shift so that my head is touching the floor. We’re looking to have more of the top of the head on the floor rather than the back of the head. So what I’ll do is walk my elbows closer to my butt and then drive the elbows into the floor to tuck my head closer to the tailbone. I can do that again, walk the elbows forward drive the elbows into the floor to tuck the head even more. Once I’m in this position, I’m still holding myself up with my elbows. But eventually what I want to be doing is holding myself up with those muscles on the back of the neck and shoulders. So eventually I’m going to squeeze my tailbone and head together so much that the arms can come off the floor. And maybe I take the hands in prayer right above my hips, squeezing my elbows to straight. Now, with every exhale, I try to squeeze my head towards my butt and my butt towards my head to really engage those long muscles of the back and neck. When I’m ready to come down, I’ll push the elbows back into the floor, chin to the chest, and you can come to lying on your back.
So start with the one with the blocks. It’s usually more manageable and we’re able to get that stretch across the chest, but eventually work yourself into the pose where you’re not using the blocks so that we can really fire up those long muscles of the back. Now, this pose is surprisingly challenging. I would recommend you stay in the pose for about a minute, a minute and a half, maybe even 2 minutes, somewhere between 5 to 10 breaths. Good luck. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll see you next time.
Chris Temple Yoga