Yoga has been touted to benefit all types of ailments and conditions. It has been recommended to relieve stress and anxiety, aid in injury treatments and even for pregnant women looking for a safe activity. Among the variety of benefits received from regular yoga practice are those provided to our necks and backs.
Yoga focuses tremendously on our posture which directly impacts the health of our back and neck. Here are various benefits to regular yoga practice along with some exercises you can try today.
Benefits of Yoga for Neck and Back
Aside from relaxation, yoga has many benefits for your neck and back health.
Yoga helps to strengthen your back and neck through holding poses for a period of time and by strengthening core muscles that support the skeletal system. Your practice can be very targeted meaning that if you’d like to target specific muscles, various yoga poses can accomplish that. Poses are a gentle way to strengthen muscles but are no less effective than more rigorous activity. The back and abdominal muscles are central muscles used the majority of yoga poses. As these muscles help to maintain posture and our spinal health, yoga is the perfect form of exercise to get them in tip top shape.
A wide variety of yoga poses require the practitioner to work on improving their balance. If you have issues with balance, don’t be afraid to begin a regular yoga practice. It’s meant to make you better! As you begin to become more comfortable with posing, your balance will improve and so will your strength of your neck and spine.
Yoga practice focuses more than just improving strength and stability. Stretching and relaxation are just as much a part of the practice as your ability to hold poses. The stretching involved relaxes our neck and spinal muscles and increases our range of motion. While holding poses, we engage some muscles while relaxing and stretching others. Instructors regularly remind students to relax their necks and jaws to promote further relaxation. Stretching also improves flexibility, which is important for reducing pain and keeping your back and neck healthy.
At-Home Yoga Exercises
There are some core yoga poses you can do from home to get you started.
Starting on hands and knees, hands directly under shoulders and knees in line with hips, inhale as you drop your belly toward the ground lifting your chin and chest upward (essentially creating an arch in your back). Exhaling, draw your belly into your spine and round your back dropping your head between your shoulders.
Benefits: This pose helps to stretch the spinal muscles and works on your core strength.
Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener
From a standing position, clasp your hands behind your back and slowly hinge forward at the waist allowing your arms to follow stopping when they’ve reached your ears.
Benefits: This pose is excellent for stretching the back while strengthening it and stretching the shoulders.
Seated Spinal Twist
To do this pose, start sitting on the ground with legs stretched in front, bring one knee to your chest placing the foot on the outside of the opposite leg. Wrap your opposite arm around the knee and slowly twist yourself toward the bent leg. Hold for 3 breaths.
Benefits: Perfect for those who need a deep stretch in their necks and backs.
Yoga Exercises for Seniors
If you’re a bit older and are not sure how well you’d do with standard balancing poses, there are some that you can do from a seated position. For instance, the forward fold with shoulder opener can be performed seated in a chair instead of standing.
The chair raised hand pose is wonderful for neck and spinal strengthening as well. Sitting in a chair straighten your arms forward, palms facing each other (think a toy soldier) and raise them so your bicep is next to your ear relaxing your shoulders down.
Forward bends from a chair are perfect for stretching the spine and neck safely, too. Simply sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and hinge at the hips letting your arms hang toward the ground. The goal is to get your tummy as flat to your thighs as you can.
Remember, yoga is a practice which requires patience. You will work toward increasing your spinal health slowly, but the benefits can be felt as quickly as after your first session. If you’re struggling with back and neck pain, talk to your chiropractor about how yoga, paired with chiropractic treatment, can help your body feel better.