For me, there are two main reasons.
There’s the physiological reason, which comes about because our posture is poor. We use electronic devices without giving any thought to how we are holding our head. We get stressed and tense when we are driving. There’s an almost endless number of ways we get it wrong.
The mental reason is just as important. We find ourselves holding on to stress and tension in our neck and shoulders, but don't know how to release it.
In my current classes, I’m focusing carefully on the alignment of the head on the top of the shoulders. Teaching simple and practical ways of gently stretching the muscles in the neck, I’m helping my students to feel a relief from the tension that we often hold there.
I am also emphasising the need to breathe deeply. Too many of us just breathe into our neck and shoulders; that was never how we were designed!! Think of the age-old phrases you hear all the time: take a deep breath, count to 10. There’s a reason we still say them! When we breathe deeply, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for how the body rests and digests. Breathing deeply into the belly slows the breath down and gives us time to stop and think. It gives us the opportunity to release stress and relax, particularly around the neck and shoulders. Just taking a deep breath can slow the heart rate and bring down blood pressure.
And it’s incredibly practical, too. Being able to move the neck and shoulders freely helps with very functional movements, like looking behind us when we reverse the car. And feeling calmer and more relaxed comes as an added bonus — how much nicer to walk around without our shoulders around our ears?!
This is a quotation from one of my favourite books that is especially relevant to what we’re considering today:
"If we are tight and constricted in our joints and muscles it is likely that we are also mentally tight. This usually manifests itself in stress, anger, fear and judgement. If we are supple, limber and fluid in the physical body it is more likely that we will reflect this openness in our mental body. This leads us to creativity, compassion, acceptance, gratitude and an ability to embrace and implement change in our lives."
Bhava Ram — The Eight Limbs of Yoga
Come along to class to find out more and help to bring balance into your life.