Our necks are made up of 7 vertebrae known as the cervical spine. These vertebrae can be prone to injury in many ways. And the most common injuries are the most innocuous.
Take a moment and let your chin drop down to your chest. Slowly lift your head, trying to articulate each bone in the cervical spine as you lift. Our heads are dang heavy, and with each vertebrae playing a different role in twisting, turning, and moving, there’s a lot riding on them (literally). Interspersed between these bones are soft discs holding together. These discs, which also act as shock absorbers and aid in mobility, can also be the source of a lot of pain. You’ve probably heard the term “slipped disc,” right?
Aging or an accident can affect the discs in our cervical spine. But so can everyday activities like bad posture and ergonomics at our desks. Looking down at smartphone and tablet screens. And a million other normal occurrences throughout our day.
Yoga Poses to Relieve Cervical Spine Pain
Each of these postures can be done by just about any physicality. Once there, take at least 5 full, slow, measured breaths in and out.
Advasana and Makrasana (reverse corpse pose variations)
Come to lay on your belly with your toes stretched to the corners of the mat behind you. For advasana, reach your hands forward while you rest your forehead on the mat. Bring the palms flat on the floor or tent your fingertips. Feel the tension through the neck soften and (hopefully) dissipate as you use the force of the ground to support you.
To move into makrasana from here, stack your palms under your forehead with your elbows out to the corners of your mat. Let your forehead rest on the top of your fingers. Makrasana helps release pressure through the spinal nerves
Bhujanghasana variations (sphinx and cobra poses)
From Makrasana, bring your elbows under your shoulders and forearms/palms flat on the mat. Your arms are making a capital L shape, bringing a little, natural arch to the spine. You can bring your arms to support your chin if this is too high load on your neck and upper body. Find a little stretch through the cervical spine here.
If this is feeling okay, move into cobra or bhujanghasana. Bring your palms under your shoulders, elbows tight against the torso. Slowly lift up, halfway or 1/4 of the way to start, and then higher as your body allows. Keep your feet and legs close together, with your thighs contracted. Tilt your head slightly to direct your gaze up.
Gomukhasana (cow face arms)
This pose can be done seated or standing. I recommend using a strap as well. Lybrate.com does a great job walking through how to achieve this posture:
Extend your right arm to the ceiling and bend it from the elbow. Place your right hand between the shoulder blades. Now bend your left arm from below the elbow and place it between the shoulder blades. Allow the weight of your hand to make the shoulder opening deeper, without pushing hard. Try to interlock the fingers of your both hands and hold the position for 5 deep breaths. This strengthens your abdominals and relaxes the spine.Lybate.com
Uttanasana (forward fold) with chest expansion grip
Standing in tadasana or mountain pose, interlace your fingers at the low back. Begin to fold forward, allowing your knees to bend to keep the low back soft and focus more on finding release through the shoulders, neck and upper body. As you lower to the floor, with your face coming closer to your knees, allow your arms to drop back behind you.
Happy Cervical Spine = Happy Life
You’ve only got one body. Take care of it. Even when you aren’t feeling pain in the cervical spine, it’s good to continue to do these stretches and move deeply to ensure its continued health. There are more stretches that I like to bring into various poses when someone asks for cervical spine or neck pain adjustments. Reach out for more ideas and tips!