Neck check for your tech neck? Try saying that three times fast.
Feeling crunchy in your neck, shoulders, and upper back? You're not alone. Tech neck has plagued our generation thanks to smartphones, computers, and desk jobs. One of the most common things I hear from students is pain and tension in the shoulder and neck region.
Scientifically known as the cervical spine, the neck is a very delicate part of the body that can be easily injured. I know this personally, because I've injured my neck in a headstand, even though I have done headstand many times and was being as safe as I possibly could, avoiding putting weight on my neck! After three weeks of proper care, it was still sore and stiff. But what people don't realize is that repetitive stress over time, however subtle, can also be the cause of pain or injury down the line.
Did you know that poor posture associated with tech neck can add an extra 40+ lbs of weight onto this gentle part of your spine?? For every inch your head juts forward off your shoulders, the weight of your head (which is about 10 lbs on its own) doubles due to gravity. This can lead to muscle tension, migraines, eventual pain, nerve or disc damage, etc. Here are some things you can do to mitigate this neck stress:
Both on and off the mat, check in with your posture as much as possible. When you are in an asana or sitting at your desk, grow tall through the crown of your head and your side waists, relax your shoulders, and then lengthen the back of the neck. There is naturally going to be a small curve in your neck, but notice if the back of it is often crunching back or if it is overextending forward to hold the weight of your head. Try to keep your head stacked right in between your shoulders. A quick and easy tip for this is to put your finger on your chin and simply adjust your head to level and then press it slightly back into space. If there was a lot of space before it could no longer go, it probably means that your neck was carrying a heavy load. It can also be helpful to check your posture in a mirror or against a wall.
One of the best purchases I recently made was a laptop stand and separate keyboard and mouse. Studies have shown that the average American spends more than 10 hours each day, and upwards of 44 years of their whole life (😲!!), looking at their devices. It is important to make sure that your work setup is ergonomically sound since many of us spend much of our days in from of the computer. Additionally, when you are doing something on your phone, try lifting it up higher to eye level so that your head isn't hanging forward to look at it.
When you are working or spending time staring at your screen, set a "pomodoro timer" to alert you every 20 minutes or so to look up from your screen, and maybe even get up and walk around or stretch. Why not take a break right now with these quick and easy neck exercises!
In my yoga classes, I almost always start with some sort of neck stretches to warm up the joints and get the fluids flowing along the spine before we really get moving. It's important to warm up the body before going into bigger or more challenging asanas. Throughout the postures, rest your gaze anywhere that feels comfortable and isn't adding more tension. Here are my favorite neck stretches and a full length video tutorial walking you through each of them:
I hope this neck yoga helps you feel a little more at ease in your body, and that you continue to give yourself a little neck love every day! 💛