Yoga neck rolls are an excellent way to relax and warm up for the rest of your yoga practice. They're one of my favorite yoga techniques because they can be so soothing. Below is an excerpt from my book which tells you exactly how to do them. Enjoy!
Type of yoga pose: Can be done standing or sitting. Sitting in a cross-legged, half-lotus or full lotus position enhances the relaxation benefits of this exercise.
Body parts targeted: Neck and upper back
How to do the pose:
1. Stand or sit erect and relaxed with your hands and arms at your sides or on your knees if seated.
2. Breathe in and out slowly and relax for a few seconds.
3. First inhale and gently drop your head so that your chin is resting on your chest on or below your collarbone or as far as you comfortably can reach in the beginning. Hold for one or two seconds and exhale as you slowly raise your head and resume its upright position. Repeat this movement two more times.
4. Inhale and gently drop your head toward your back so the back of your head is touching your back or as far as you can comfortably go. Hold for one second. If you are very stiff and haven’t done many neck movements in years, you may experience discomfort. Take it easy and move gently. Exhale and move your head back slowly to its upright position.
5. Inhale and turn your head as far as is comfortable to the left side (no, you are not going to do a full head turnaround as in the Exorcist!), hold for a second, exhale and return your head to the center starting position. Be careful not to move your shoulders as you turn your head to the side. You want to maximize the neck stretch. Repeat twice more. Do the same movements to the right side and back three times.
6. Inhale and move your head straight downward to the left side, hold for a second, exhale, and return head to upright position. Repeat twice more on left side. Do the same movement on the right side three times.
7. Inhale and drop your head very slowly until your neck is completely limp and your chin is resting on your chest on or below your collarbone, or as far as you can comfortably go.
8. Ever so slowly, roll your head to your right side. Keep your neck loose and allow the weight of your head to pull your neck muscles. Imagine you are a marionette and someone is gently maneuvering the strings that move your neck.
9. Continue moving your head slowly until your head is touching your back. (You are making a half, not a full circle).
10.Exhale and gently roll head back to the front. Lift your head and resume its upright position. Repeat twice more on the left. Do the same movements on the right side three times.
Practice time: 3 repetitions of this pose takes about 5 minutes.
Number of repetitions: 3 on each side.
Key benefits from this pose:
1. Helps warm you up for your yoga session.
2. Relieves stiffness, tension, and pain in the neck and upper back.
3. Enhances flexibility and mobility of the neck.
4. Helps tighten the area right under the chin.
5. Smoothes lines from the neck and helps elongate the neck.
6. Relaxes body.
Special hints and Laura’s experience with this pose:
The neck is an area of the body that tends to collect neuro-muscular tension that can cause pain and stiffness. Once, when I was 24 years old I spent an entire day typing at an office. I barely moved as I focused on completing a project. Big mistake! I put undue stress on my neck. My neck became so stiff that I could hardly turn my head for the next 3 days! I had to take several warm baths before the stiffness eased and before I could resume turning my head and moving my neck normally.
Neck rolls are feasible for most beginners. If you have had any neck injuries or whiplash, check with your physician or medical advisor first. If done very gently, however, neck rolls can help to strengthen the neck area and heal it from injury. As yogi Erich Schiffman recommends in his book, Yoga – The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, keep your eyes closed as you do the neck rolls to “magnify the sensations.”
At first, you may hear cracking or graveling noises in your neck as you move your head. I heard mild crunching at the top of my neck when I began doing neck rolls. However, with consistent gentle practice, your head should be able to revolve smoothly as if it had been well lubricated and any crunching or cracking noises should be minimal. Remember, never jerk your head in any way. Think s – m – o – o – t – h movement.
You can fit in neck rolls throughout the day as an afternoon tension reliever at your desk or at night before sleep to totally relax you. If I have trouble sleeping, I do the neck rolls. However, I usually do neck rolls in the morning as a warm-up for my daily yoga session.