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Yoga Anatomy

4 Yoga Poses for Better Posture, Less Neck Pain

Whatever the root cause of your slumping, your yoga practice can help alleviate any resulting pain or dips in mood by bringing more balance to the muscles in your chest, upper back, and neck.

Whatever the root cause of your slumping, your yoga practice can help alleviate any resulting pain or dips in mood by bringing more balance to the muscles in your chest, upper back, and neck.

Warrior Pose II

Warrior Pose II

Virabhadrasana II

Stand with your feet 3–4 feet apart, the back foot turned out 45–90 degrees; find heel-to-arch alignment between your front and back foot. Raise your arms overhead as you bend the front leg to a 90-degree angle. Your hips will find a slightly angled position as you engage your back leg’s glutes to open the front of your pelvis. As you lower your arms away from the body to shoulder height, feel your shoulder blades draw toward your midline and down your back. This action strengthens the rhomboids and the middle and lower trapezius, as your chest expands forward and opens to stretch the pectoralis major and minor. Imagine pressing the index-finger mounds down against an immovable object as you simultaneously externally rotate the shoulders. Stay here 8–10 breaths; repeat on the other side.

See alsoAnatomy 101: Understand Neck Safety in Supported Shoulderstand

Cow Face Pose, variation

Cow Face Pose, variation

Gomukhasana 

This pose creates an opening in the upper arms, stretching muscles deep within the shoulders. From Dandasana (Staff Pose), extend your right arm up next to your right ear, and your left arm down close to your left side. Bend the left arm across the back and up so that the fingers reach the mid-back between the shoulder blades. Bend the right elbow so your right fingers reach toward your left fingers. If possible, allow the fingers to connect; if not, use a strap. Pull lightly. Stay in the posture for 8–10 breaths; repeat on the other side.

See also Yoga for Neck Pain

Upward Plank Pose

Upward Plank Pose

Purvottanasana

This pose stretches tight chest muscles and activates the weakened muscles that stabilize the shoulder blades. Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your back straight, legs extended in front of you. Press your hands down beside your hips. Externally rotate your shoulders and draw your shoulder blades down your back. Press the mounds at the base of your index fingers into the mat; externally rotate your shoulders again. Hold your hands in place and attempt to drag them isometrically away from your body. Lift your hips, with your feet under your knees, or straighten your legs out in front of you for the full pose. Hold for 3–5 breaths, then release. Repeat up to 3 times.

See also A Healing Yoga Sequence to Ease Neck + Shoulder Pain

Forearm Plank Pose

Forearm Plank Pose

This pose connects your core to your shoulders and, in the process, helps your rotator cuffs to more efficiently stabilize your shoulders. Lie face-down with your forearms on the floor, elbows under your shoulders, and lift your body so it forms a straight line from head to heels. Isometrically attempt to drag your forearms toward your feet, slightly contracting your gluteus maximus to move your tailbone toward your heels. Breathe at your resting pace, and hold for 10 seconds. Exhale to lower. Repeat 2–3 times.

See alsoThe Yoga of Smartphones: How to Avoid “Tech Neck”

Ray Long, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in Detroit and the founder of Bandha Yoga, a website and book series dedicated to the anatomy and biomechanics of yoga. Model Caitlin Rose Kenney is a yoga teacher in Boulder, Colorado.

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