Movement Principles, for Back /Neck Pain

Posted by on Nov 5, 2016 in Back Pain Relief, Teaching Tips, Yoga Practice Tips | 0 comments

Movement Principles, for Back /Neck Pain

A Journey to Relieve Neck Pain.

Each person has their own unique structural imbalances that lead to neck or back pain. Here are two examples of students with neck pain who recently attended my back class. They each have their own learning curve to understand the pain sensations from their body as messages. Let’s take a look.

Example #1: Neck Spasms in the Sternocleidomastoid Muscle.

The sternocleidomastoid muscle or SCM, are long anterior neck muscles that help us to turn and nod our head or lift our head when lying flat. They connect the sternum, clavicle, and mastoid process of the temporal bone which is part of the skull just behind the ear. This long cord like muscle can be seen and felt when a person turns their head. As the muscle forms the outside boundary of the throat chakra, spasticity would indicate tension having to do with self expression, or some degree of incorrect posture. This type of tension and it’s root cause are unique to each individual and part of their healing quest.

How will yoga help?

The first step in the healing journey is to find relief so that we can think and respond differently to our circumstances. When performing Yogi Curl-ups found on page 33 of my book, Healing Our Backs with Yoga, my student Judy, found her SCM muscles going from tight to tighter with increased spasticity and discomfort. However, Baby Fish Pose on page 29 felt good and was a great help to release the spasticity.  How to tone the posterior neck muscles gradually


But how did that happen?

This is where knowledge of a movement principal called reciprocal inhibition comes in handy. The principle states that when one muscle group contracts, it’s opposite or antagonistic group must relax. It is hardwired in our nervous system and is as reliable as our breath. So when Judy practiced Baby Fish Pose and contracted the muscles of her back neck, the SCM muscles began to let go giving her relief.

This movement principle can be applied in any situation. For example; if you have spent the whole day sitting at your desk, and your low back feels achy, it is typically because the back muscles are feeling weak. If they are weak, then the muscles of the front hip, or hip flexors would be tight. Choose the yoga pose to reverse the process. Pelvic lifts or Baby Fish Pose is ideal. As the buttock and back muscles tone, tight thighs and psoas muscles will release, restoring our body back to balance.

Example 2: Sally’s cervical herniation and arm pain.

Sally’s situation was a bit different. Extreme weakness of her posterior neck muscles had already degraded into a disc herniation. Caused by the stress of habitually looking down at her work or other habits like a head down reading posture, one of her disk now pushes backwards putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

For Sally, Yoga Curl-ups were not helpful as they caused more negative pain, i.e.; nerve pain. Using the same movement principal as Jane, I recommended that Sally practice one half of the baby fish pose. Meaning that while she was lying on her back she would simply lift her chin slightly and press the back of her head into the floor for a simple five counts, rest, and repeat. In this way she would gradually strengthen her posterior neck muscles without stress which would help the disk to return back into it’s place.


So when you practice yoga on your own consider your condition. Is the area in question overly contracted? Then find a pose that tones the opposite muscles or opposite side of the limb. If the area in question is weak or overexpanded find a pose that begins to contract the muscles in that area. With a bit of thought and reflection we can discover ways to apply yoga to create balance in our bodies and encourage healing.

In honor of the blessing of yoga, Namaste.  Lillah

Discover a wealth of information and Lillah’s new book Healing Our Backs with Yoga: an essential guide to back pain relief.

Join her private monthly e-newsletter.  Consider an individual private session in person on On-line to address your particular back care needs.


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