The Bi-directional Relationship Between Mental and Physical Health
Soothing neck release
This simple exercise is easy to do and targets the sides of your neck, often a prime point for pain.
Sit cross-legged on the floor, for comfort you can use a yoga mat or ensure a soft surface, like carpet. If you have difficulty sitting cross-legged, it’s fine to sit in a chair with your feet placed flat on the ground.
Stretch your left arm out and place it next to your left knee, or if you are seated, place it on the side of your chair. Put your right hand on top of your head and gently slant your head to the right.
For an increased stretch, try applying gentle pressure on your head with your hand to feel the pull. To take it further, try holding onto your left knee as you do so. This keeps your torso balanced and allows you to isolate the stretch to just one side.
Hold this pose for half a minute and then gradually release the position, and do the same for your right side.
Clasping neck stretch
This one gives you a good, deep stretch for your upper back and neck.
Start by sitting comfortably, either cross-legged on the floor or in a chair. Lock your hands together and place your palms on the back of your head. Sit up straight so your back is aligned and then lock your hips securely into your seat.
Once in this position, slowly bring your hands down towards your thighs, letting your head move with it. Tuck your chin into your chest as you do so, using your palms to gently move your head away from your shoulders for a more intense stretch.
Hold this position for around 30 seconds, and then gradually release the position.
Neck stretch behind the back
This is a great exercise to do if you’re working from home, as it gets you up on your feet and moving. It gives you a deep, intense stretch around the sides of your neck and releases tension, preventing neck pain from sitting down for too long.
Stand on a solid surface with your feet apart, in line with your shoulders. Extend both hands behind your buttocks and hold onto your right wrist with your left hand. With your left hand, gradually straighten out your right arm and gently tug it away from your body.
For a more intense stretch, gently move your head to the left side of your shoulder. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then do the same for the right side of your body.
Grounded tip-over tuck (Child’s Pose)
This exercise offers a deep, relaxing stretch for your shoulders and neck. It’s also a great exercise if you experience migraines and headaches, as well as relieving drowsiness.
Kneel on the floor on a yoga mat, or a soft surface like carpet, with your shins flat against the ground. Sit back onto your buttocks, fold forward with your arms stretched out in front of you and slowly lay your forehead on the floor. This is known as Child’s Pose in Yoga practice. Relax your torso against your upper thighs and hold this pose for a few seconds, stretching out your spine.
Once you are comfortable with this pose, clasp your hands together behind your back, pressing the heel of your palms together to intensify the stretch in your shoulders. However, if this doesn’t feel right for your body, then stay settled in Child’s Pose — do what feels comfortable for you.
If you’d like to try another variation of this pose, lift your interlocked hands above your body, as high as feels comfortable. Inhale slowly and shift your center of gravity forward, gently raising your waist off your heels. Again, be mindful not to overexert yourself, and push yourself to a limit you feel comfortable with.
As the top of your head meets the floor, rest there and stretch your hands to the floor, as close as feels comfortable for you. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then gradually lower your waist back onto your heels.
Hold this position again for a further 10 seconds, and then raise your waist off your heels again. Repeat this process five or so more times, then gently go back into Child’s Pose again. Equally, Child’s Pose is a wonderful stress-reliever for the body if you simply want to stretch out in this pose without the variations described - feel your spine lengthen and relax into the pose with each deep breath.
Beyond neck and back pain relief: the benefits of stretching
The stretches described above will help prevent you from developing neck or back pain, something particularly important if you’re currently working from home during the lockdown. With recent research from Bupa UK revealing that 11 million Brits are in pain from using their home office equipment, it’s important now more than ever to include movement as part of your daily routine, to support both your mental and physical health.
Stretching offers an array of benefits. Regular stretching helps to:
- relieve stress
- keep blood flowing around your body
- feel calm and balanced
Stretching is an effective migraine solution too, particularly effective when using the Grounded Tipover Tuck pose described above. Beyond that, stretches like these also offer relief from the side effects of migraine medication. Research shows that the side effects of sumatriptan (a common migraine treatment) include drowsiness, and stretching can help relieve this somewhat.
Try making these gentle exercises part of your day and feel the many benefits they provide. Remember to be mindful of your limits and go at a pace that works for you, and we’re confident you’ll notice improvements each day.
Original source: 4 gentle stretching exercises to prevent neck and back pain