Certain warm-ups are essential to my yoga practice. Warming up the joints, waking the muscles with a bit of stretching, “Hello! Time to get busy!”
Neck rolls are one of my favourite warm-up exercises because having a strong neck is essential in performing many of the asanas. Also, regular practice maintains flexibility of the neck muscles and can help prevent/reduce lines and wrinkles in the throat area. Additional benefits include:
- Maintaining the health of the nerves that run from the neck to the eyes, ears and brain. This can be beneficial in helping prevent problems with sight and hearing;
- Strengthening major blood vessels for a good flow of blood from the neck to the brain, helping with improved energy and memory;
- Mini adjustments to the upper spine.
It’s always best to begin slowly with neck exercises. Start slowly and listen to the body. If you have trouble with the rotations, lift your shoulders slightly to help support the neck until it becomes stronger. If you hear “crackling” or “gristly” sounds, it means that ossification has set in to some extent, but regular practice will reverse this problem before you know it. A few weeks of daily practice will make a world of difference to your throat and neck health. Try it! It works! But, always, always respect your body and go at a pace that is comfortable for you.
I begin by sitting in a comfortable position making sure the spine is tall and relaxed. Then, I inhale deeply. With the exhalation, I slowly lower my chin toward my chest, resting there for a few moments and taking in the gentle stretch of the neck. Inhaling, I slowly I rotate my head in one direction moving gently through any obstructions ~ rotating once, twice, several more times. (At this point, I am no longer regulating the rhythm of the breath.) I rest with the head lowered for a few moments and then reverse the rotation.
Other times I may also incorporate a nice side-to-side stretch lowering the head to the left shoulder, then the right, conscious of the gentle lengthening of the muscles.
It’s very important to keep the breath smooth and flowing during the exercise. Breathing in, I am conscious of oxygen flowing to all my organs, muscles and every cell of the body. Exhaling, I consciously relax more deeply into the exercise and the present moment.
As I finish the neck rotations, I rest where I began with the chin toward the chest and then ever….. so….. slowly….. lift the chin parallel to the floor. I relax in this position savoring the moment and the beginning of ever deeper levels of relaxation and, at the same time, increased energy.
If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment,
live in the breath.
— Amit Ray