Today one of the most common complaints from people revolves around neck and shoulder pain. The origin of the pain is different for different people and depends upon habits, age as well as skeletal structure. Nonetheless, the modern day habit of spending hours in front of a screen is probably the main culprit behind shoulder and neck pain as well as stress and it´s effect on the body at a physiological, emotional and energetic level. For this reason it is essential to to work with the entire neck, shoulder girdle to hand connection to achieve relief and correct pain creating habits.
The neck is the connecting point between the head and the shoulders. Proportionally speaking the human head is quite heavy. It is for that reason if the natural curves of the spine are not present, for example shoulders fall forward creating an exaggerated curve of the thoracic spine, the vertebrae of the neck, which are not as strong or stable as the vertebrae of the thoracic spine, suffer as well as all the tendons, ligaments, fascia and muscles attached.
Furthermore, the connection between neck and jaw can also cause pain. This connection is easy to feel for yourself. Simply close your eyes and observe the neck and jaw. Now, clench your jaw and observe what happens with the neck. Observe what happens through the skull. You will observe that automatically the muscles in the neck and skull, especially along the temples of the forehead, also tense up. This connection can be responsible for different kinds of pain including not just neck pain, butalso headaches and other discomfort in and around the skull area.
It is for this reason when looking for pain relief around the neck and skull area, it is important to work with the entire structure of the shoulder girdle, the neck and jaw and not just where the pain is centralized.
The shoulders have only one point where bone connects to bone. This point is located just below the throat in-between the left and right clavicle bones right below the interclavicular hole. The rest of the shoulder girdle is connected and held together with various tendons, ligaments and muscle fibers. This structure is fantastic for mobility and grants the human body more movement in the shoulders than around the pelvis, but it also means less stability. For this reason it is important to not only work with the flexibility around the shoulder girdle area to correct a posture where the shoulders fall forward, but also with the entire muscle structure of the thoracic spine to help lift the sternum and maintain the scapula back and resting over the ribcage and not up and forwards into the ears.
Good Yoga shoulder & neck workshop 2015
When the scapula are resting over the back of the rib cage and the sternum is lifted up and away from the pubic bone, the natural curve of the thoracic spine is able to fulfill its structural role and help to carry the weight of the skull instead of placing the majority of the work upon the cervical spine. This of course means less neck pain as well as more space for the diaphragm to move which means a deeper and better breath as well as better functioning digestion and balanced activation of the nervous system, especially that of the Vagus Nerve.
The Emotional Connection
When the Vagus Nerve, digestive system and breath are functioning well we are more able to observe and control our stress response.When we are relaxed we are better equipped to employ the pre-frontal cortex and act in a logical, creative and compassionate manner rather than from the amygdala and its corresponding emotion of fear which commonly has its root in conditioned responses formed by past experiences rather than in the reality of the present moment.
The Energetic Connection:
There are six main meridians in Chinese medicine that run through the shoulders, arms, wrists and hands. For this reason, not only on a physiological level, but also on a energetic level, it is important to connect hands with arms and arms with shoulders and all of these with the neck to provide pain relief in the upper part of the body. The six meridians located in the upper part of the body are the Heart, the Small Intestine, the Large Intestine, the Lungs, the Pericardio and San Jiao.
Each meridian has its role but all of them have something to do with pain and discomfort located in and around the torso and neck as well as problems around the skull including issues dealing with the ears, teeth and eyes. Furthermore the meridians located around the torso and neck especially that of the Lung are related with emotions of melancholy, anxiety and other mental health problems. If you would like to learn more about the meridians I would recommend visiting this page as it offers clear and easy descriptions of each meridian and its corresponding location.
The practice of Yoga is an integral practice of connections.
Visualizing the human experience and human body from an integrated perspective instead of one of pieces and parts is what separates the eastern approach to medicine and philosophy from the western approach. In Yoga the body and mind exist together and are impossible to separatehence the name Yoga, or union. For this reason when working with the body one must observe and work with all of the physical, mental and energetic connections. This is the purpose and wisdom of Hatha Yoga as well as other mind-body practices such as Yin Yoga and Yamuna Body Rolling.