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Yoga Relief for Muscle Tension (Trapped Emotions) in Your Neck

Neck tension is often connected to throat chakra issues such as the inability to communicate clearly or to be your authentic self around others. Fear and anxiety are frequently stored in this vulnerable area, particularly as a physical response to danger or strange environments. Those of us living in a cold climate can relate to the turtle who draws head and neck into its shell for protection. Similarly, we hunch our shoulders to our ears trying to keep our neck safe from cold weather.

Neck muscle tension is also related to an inability to trust. For most people lacking trust, often a first response is to hold others’ responsible for the mistrust. However, when we dig deeper into our trust issues, we discover that who we do not trust is ourselves. Blaming our mistrust on the misbehaviour of others is merely a projection. No one is responsible for creating our emotional experience. We choose to feel how we feel, whether our choice is conscious or unconscious/subconscious.

So, what does a lack of trust in ourselves have to do with muscle tension? Well, tense or tight muscles are essentially us emotionally holding onto the past. That is, we are choosing to hold onto past beliefs, feelings and expectations and then using this dated information to govern our responses in the present moment. This is how a habit gets formed, and how we get stuck repeating the past. Holding on tightly to an old habit only allows us to react in one patterned way. When we release old limiting habits, we open ourselves to respond in a multitude of other ways that are likely better suited to the emerging situation.

As you practise the following asana sequence intended to open and relax your neck muscles, apply the yoga action in each of the poses.

VIRASANA (3-5 minutes)
– to centre, close your eyes and practise the yoga action below

ACTION: Beginning at the bottom of the back skull, lengthen down the left (outer back) neck along the inner left shoulder blade to the back waist. Repeat this on the right side of the back neck. Notice the sensations.

VIRASANA NECK ROTATIONS (3-5 reps each)
– gentle, gravity-based rolls; REPEAT in other direction

VIRASANA FRONT NECK STRETCH (10-20 Breaths)
– hands on floor behind hips, release head back to lengthen front neck

SUKHASANA TORSO HUG (5 Breaths each)
– hug body with both arms, head release to R
– REPEAT other torso hug & head release to L

HASTA SUKHASANA variation (5 reps each)


– arms overhead, roll back of hands to face each other & clasp hands

EXHALE wrists to crown, elbows moving back, INHALE arms straight

to PARSVA SUKHASANA (10 Breaths each)
– twist to L & drop R side of head toward R shoulder; use hand to assist

to FORWARD FOLD SUKHASANA (10 Breaths)
REPEAT to other side

TABLETOP

to CAT

to COW (5 reps)
– move hips back on Cat and forward on Cow

TABLETOP

to THREAD-THE-NEEDLE (10 Breaths each)

TABLETOP

to UTTANA SHISHOSANA (Extended Puppy Pose 10-15 Breaths)
– up on fingertips, 90-degree angle in upper legs
– chest & chin eventually rest on floor

TABLETOP

to VASISTHASANA I variation
– knees & shins on floor, extend L arm up (5 Breaths), wrap to R thigh (5 Breaths) REPEAT to other side

SALAMBA UTTANASANA variation (10-30 Breaths)
– thoracic into wall, clasp hands behind head, allow weight to lengthen back of neck
– notice, if jaw is tight, relax it and breathe into the sensations

YWLT (You Will Live Taller) ARMS (5 Breaths each) with GOMUKHASANA LEGS

Y ARMS
– head neutral (chin parallel to floor & not pushed forward)
– squeeze between inner shoulder blades; shoulders relax & move down

W ARMS

L ARMS

T ARMS

– change leg crossing and repeat YWLT to other side

WALL STRETCH (3 reps @ 5 Breaths each)
– hands at shoulder height, chest height, waist height

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (5-10 Breaths)

SALAMBA MATSYASANA (3-5 Minutes)
– block behind thoracic & head (2m with Med head block; 2m with Lo or No head block)

SAVASANA (5-10 Minutes)
– sandbags or weights on front shoulders to release them to floor  

Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.

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