I was amazed -shocked even- to see one of my students, who has come to class regularly with me for years, after Sunday’s Neck and Shoulder workshop. She has a very bright and loving spirit, and also like many elders, has a deep thoracic kyphosis, meaning her upper back and shoulders round forward, so she is quite stooped, and her back neck has to fold sharply so she can look up. When this student was saying goodbye after the workshop, her body and stature was noticeably completely transformed, her spine was long and tall, her chest open, her shoulders broad and in line with her pelvis and feet, and her head balanced atop an extended neck. She was inches taller and literally glowed. I didn’t realize such a stance was possible for her, yet there she was. Another real miracle of Iyengar Yoga!
I’m so grateful to be able to explore this healing, transformational work with my community. After all, it’s difficult to journey inward, skin to soul, with stiff, shoulders, a dull spine, and a pain in your neck!
Here is the sequence from the workshop I taught: Yoga for Neck and Shoulders. I’m posting this as a favor to my students who were in attendance. The notes are brief but hopefully this will give you some inspiration for your practice! There were so many poses I wanted to include, and could have included. All credit for any of the good things that happened at the workshop should go to the Iyengar family.
Here is what we practiced.
Neck and Shoulder Yoga Sequence
Svastikasana: spine alignment, internalizing: release relax the eyes, brain, evacuate mind, arrive. Ode to Patanjali.
Salamaba Savasana: ‘heart bench’ with two blocks, one lowest, one mid height, trifold blanket for head and cervical curve support. Relaxation, exhale to dissolve jaw, throat, base of skull etc.
Adho Mukha (Prone) Savasana: bolster under front body + blocks with folded blankets, fold facing in, on top for each shoulder: broaden shoulder blades, release trapezius, shoulders into back body. Breath in back body: pacify.
Anatomy lecture while sitting with “belt jacket,” pin shoulders back, broaden collar bones
Urdhva Hastasana while sitting, with shoulder width belt loop around hands: Arms forward, socketize, turn upper arm, try to break belt, maintain when lifting arms upwards
Supta Urdhva Hastasana sacrum, chest on 2 thin blocks, head support, find humeral action, extend up, plug humerus back, turn upper arm
Supta Urdhva Hastasana, folded blanket underneath as in a very mild Setubandha Sarvangasana; palms down thumbs out on either side of block, elbows in, extend, weight on forearms (blanket and sandbag)
Tadasana foot, leg action for spine
Urdhva Hastasana classic pose
Tadasana with arms laterally extended, explore rotation and expansion from the core of the arms/ space behind sternum
Ardha Parsva Hastasana arm at wall, turn shoulder, fingers back then maintain turn of upper arm, inner elbow up as hand/ forearm rotate up
Gomukhasana arms while standing, focus on stability and organization
Gomukhasana in a wide Uttanasana use the upper arm to pull; work with exhalation
Wide hands belt pull: shoulder opener, up and down
Uttansana head on block, shoulders active, for the neck
Utthita Trikonasana, classic pose, focus on the legs; foundation
Trikonasana, chair and belt, for broadening, turning chest, lateral shoulder action, scapula down, stretch pectoralis
Trikonasana, chair support for head, neck release, turn gently from thoracic, trapezius skin down the back
Adho Mukha Virasana lift spread inner armpit, extend upper spine, release T1 in
Adho Mukha Svanasana – classic pose, lift broaden shoulders, T1/ dorsal in
Adho Mukha Svanasana, with 2 belts and partner
Tadasana with belt shoulder harness: pull down and forward without low ribs pushing forward; trapezius skin down, lift sternum, collarbones broaden, long neck
Adho Mukha Svanasna in ropes, knee bent, push chair away, then hold chiar while partner pushes chair away to traction and broadens inner upper arms; head on block support
Supine neck stability work on block to build healthy extension curve, explore connection lumbar arch, cervical arch
Shalabasana with belt shoulder harness, then without
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana: stability of back body/ elbows belted, press forearms, hands taught on either side of chair legs
Sarvangasana preparation in upsidedown chair
Bharadvajasana sitting backwards though chait with neck turning opposite, tuck scapula in, then gently add neck
Lateral neck release
Setubandha Sarvangasana, restorative version, chair under low legs, neck traction
Here is the handout from the workshop: