For all its wonderful benefits sometimes running can literally be a pain in the neck.
Long mileage or even short sprints can cause strain and muscle fatigue in the upper shoulder and neck area. Being mindful of your neck during runs can, of course, help alleviate some of the ache — but that’s if you remember. If you forget, though, here are some easy neck stretches to do first thing in the morning, during a break from staring at your computer, or right after a run. These neck stretches are so easy they won’t take more than a few minutes of your time.
Forward Fold with Neck Lengthening
- Walk your feet hips-width distance apart.
- Bend your knees slightly and fold forward, hinging from your hips, let your hands dangle.
- Take a few breaths to sway side to side opening up the hamstrings.
- After a few rounds of breath, interlace your fingers at the base of your skull.
- Next, gently draw your head toward the floor with your hands. This shouldn’t be a huge tug just a soft lengthening toward the ground.
- Stay for a few breaths then release the hands and roll back up to standing one vertebrae at a time.
Cat Cow Pose:
- To begin come to all fours. Place your shoulders over your wrists, spreading the fingers wide. Hips should be over the knees, toes untucked.
- On an inhale, drop the belly, draw the heart through the arms and take the gaze skyward.
- On your exhale, round the spine, puffing up the thoracic spine. Take your chin to your chest gazing at the navel.
- Take several rounds on your own breaths. I like to close my eyes tuning into how my body feels. After a few rounds I also like to shift my hips side to side, alternating moving my neck in the opposite direction of my hips.
Seated Side Neck Stretch
- Come to a comfortable seated position. Make sure the sitting bones are evenly rooting into the earth.
- Lengthen through the crown of the head, sitting tall.
- On an inhale take your right hand to your left ear. On an exhale, gentle draw your head to your right shoulder.
- Keep the chin lifted and breathe for several rounds of breath.
- To come out of the pose, release the hand and lift the head back to center. Repeat by placing the left hand on the right ear and drawing the head to the left.
Make sure to be mindful and gentle when doing any neck stretch. The cervical spine is delicate and should not be overly tugged or twisted. Work in stages to stretch your neck, less is often more for many of these poses. And as always, remember to breath to find space and opening in your entire body.
Photos and article by Lisa Horvath.
Related: Guide to yoga for runners