Don’t Wear Your Shoulders As Earrings

“Don’t wear your shoulders as earrings.” I remember this phrase uttered by one of my instructors during my yoga teacher training. The shoulders seem to want to get chummy with the ears, thus contracting muscles of the neck and upper spine. This leads to tension in the neck and upper back. The shoulders don’t seem to understand that it’s not always their turn to do the work. Sometimes I feel like saying, “Not everything’s about you!” or “Settle down!” as they hunch up during a warrior pose. The muscles of the neck, upper and mid-back are hard enough workers as we conduct our lives at computers and cell phones.

So what can we do to alleviate tension that happens in the neck from hunching our shoulders on a regular basis?  Here are some ideas:

  • Be conscious of your posture. Think about Tadasana (Mountain Pose) whether you are sitting or standing.
    • Standing:
      • Feet are hip distance apart, Knees aligned over ankles, hips over knees (with a slight pelvic tilt), shoulders over hips
      • Let the shoulder blades fall down the back and the shoulders and arms relax
      • Tuck the chin slightly to align the ears over the shoulders
    • Seated:
      • Feet flat on floor with knees and hips at right angles
      • Shoulders aligned over hips…shoulder blades relax down the back
      • Tuck the chin slightly to align the ears over the shoulders

Aside from stretching and strengthening (always a good idea and something I strive for in the classes I teach), it’s important to adopt these good postural habits. When, despite all your good intentions, you end up with tight muscles in the neck and upper back, you can reverse some of that with the following yoga postures.

    • Eagle Arms
    • Thread the needle
    • Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
      • You can also clasp your hands together on back of skull to provide a little for the neck…be gentle with this though
    • Sphinx Pose
    • Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
    • Shoulder & neck rolls

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