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Robert Mapplethorpe, 1979

The neck is an incredibly hardworking part of the body that is often overlooked. We would like to change that! Each of us has more than 20 different muscles in our necks, all working together in choreographed harmony to stabilise the head and spine, allowing for easeful and efficient movement, while also assisting with the essential functions of breathing, chewing and swallowing. A veritable hive of activity, the neck is home to a complex collection of vital glands, nerves, connective tissues and muscles, providing a consistent healthy flow of blood to the head whilst also protecting the nerves that carry important sensory and motor information from the brain down to the rest of the body.

During periods of prolonged physical and mental stress, we often find ourselves complaining of a stiff or painful neck, our bodies locked in a sympathetic state of heightened awareness, unable to fully relax and unwind. For optimum neck health, we can find gentle relief by integrating simple but powerful practices – such as joyful movement, self-massage, and vibrational sound meditation – into our routines. These practices are quick, easy and free! Soft reminders to tune into your body and remember those often overlooked areas that work so hard for us every day.

Read on for some of our favourite neck-supportive techniques…

Yin Yoga: Puppy Pose
Puppy pose is a gentle and restorative backbend that works to extend the spine and neck, opening up the chest and releasing tension from lower back, neck and shoulders. Regular practice can improve posture, increase flexibility, and boost circulation. It’s also an excellent stress reliever, bringing us back into our bodies and helping to quieten busy minds and pacify emotional charge.

How to
1. After rolling out your mat, begin on hands and knees in a stable tabletop position.

2.  Stretch your arms out in front of you, until they are fully extended and your forehead is on the floor. Allow the spine to elongate. Embrace this extension and feel the spine and neck stretch and relax.

3. Keeping your forehead on the mat, connect your palms and reach your hands toward the back of your head. Place a block under your elbows if you are feeling a little stiff.

4. Hold for at least a minute, or 2-3 minutes for a deeper release.

Gua Sha for Neck Health
Gua sha is a science-backed Traditional Chinese Medicine technique that uses a small handheld massage tool, typically cut from jade or rose quartz, to move energy around the body by scraping the skin. Stretching back as far as the Paleolithic Age, gua sha has long been used to relieve tension, decrease inflammation and stimulate localised microcirculation and lymphatic flow.

How to
1. Start by massaging a few drops of All-Over-Oil into the neck.

2. Place your tool at the back of the neck, just behind the ear, and begin slowly sweeping downward. The motion should be firm, but not uncomfortably so. Repeat for about 10 seconds, before switching to the other side.

3. From here, move to the front of the neck. Beginning at the base of the jaw, work the tool in those same slow downward strokes until you reach the collarbone. The angle of your tool should be almost flat (30-degree angle), as if spreading butter with a knife. Repeat for around 10 strokes, then move on to the other side.

4. Next, reverse the action, moving your tool upwards from the top of the collarbone to the jaw. Ensure you have enough slip (oil), and take it slow.

5. Take a moment to notice how your neck feels after this simple yet invigorating practice.

Dr. Geeta Iyengar, Sukhasana

Throat Chakra Meditation
Within the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, the body is said to hold 7 energy centres or chakras, which must remain open to allow a consistent flow of energy. The fifth chakra, the throat chakra, is located at the centre of the neck, at the height of the thyroid gland which regulates energy in the body through temperature, growth and metabolism. It is believed to be the centre of communication and self-expression, and the bridge between heart and mind. When the throat chakra is blocked, we might experience sadness, low self-esteem, or anxiety, which can be worsened by an inability to effectively express these feelings.

The following exercise is a Kundalini mantra that works to strengthen the vibrational frequency of the throat chakra.

How to
1. Find a comfortable seat.

2. Take a deep breathe in. On the exhale, vibrate the sound HAM (pronounced HAUHM).

3. Repeat softly, without force, around 5 times.