Stretching the neck muscles can be challenging and confusing. Here is a simple, centering neck exercise that can help alleviate neck pain. It is called “The Clock.” This is the same pattern of movement as used in the article entitled, Computer Eye Strain Exercises.
Lay on the floor in supine position (face up) on a yoga mat or towel. You want the surface to be firm but not too hard. First, feel the muscles of your head on the ground beneath you. The floor will be your guide as you move through the exercise, so maintain contact with it without too much effort. Also, you will be gently massaging these muscles via the pressure on the floor as you move through this neck exercise. Make sure your head is in good alignment. Your neck should not be flat on the floor and your chin should not jut out.
Look up and imagine a large clock above you. Now move your head up towards the twelve and then down to the six slowly three times. This will mimic the “yes” movement. Now, move your head from the three to the nine three times slowly. This will mimic the “no” movement. You can use your nose as a guide. Remember to maintain contact with the floor beneath you. Now you can hopefully sense your neck in a more centered alignment. Maintain this centered feeling for the rest of the exercise because you will want to return to it as your reference point for these next steps.
Next you will do the opposite diagonal movements of the clock. Look up at the one and down at the seven three times slowly. Place the one right next to the twelve and the seven right next to the six. This will be a more specific stretch. Next do eleven and five o’clock again, imagining them right next to the twelve and the six on your clock. Pause in the center as mentioned before.
Lastly, and this is where people often feel the most dramatic part of the stretch. Look at two o’clock and eight o’clock three times slowly. Then ten o’clock and four o’clock three times slowly.
It is very important to do this in this sequence as you need to center yourself before you do the diagonal movements. The benefit is not the same if you skip steps. When you have completed the series take your head three times slowly clockwise and than counterclockwise to complete the neck exercise. Remember to enjoy the massaging sensation on the muscles on the back of your head.
This technique can help to create better alignment of your neck. It can also increase your proprioceptive awareness of your head and neck placement and of course relieve tense and painful areas of the neck and shoulders.
It may be a little choppy while you are learning the stretch at first because you have to keep referring back to the directions but hang in there soon you will know it by heart and enjoy doing it as part of a daily decompression technique.
Photo source: kramesonline.com