A year ago I began to suffer with bad neck tension, especially after backbends. I noticed increased tension & tightness through my upper trapezius muscles as well as trapped nerves in my neck - all aggravated when I practiced any backbending asana. .
For the life of me I could not figure out what I was doing wrong as I was practicing how I’d always seen or been told! The realisation of my misalignment came when one of my teachers cued me to keep my neck and head straight (the double chin adjustment) in all my backbends, lengthening my lumbar spine and focusing on the backbend being led from my chest & upper back. This simple adjustment left me feeling a noticeable length in neck & a HUGE slice of humble pie as I saw how little I was using my upper thoracic extension, relying on the lumbar & neck flexibility to give the appearance of a deep backbend. .
Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to do this. I truly believe that there isn’t a black & white approach to any movement. But I do think that practicing in one way alone causes weakness and imbalance. So while it is nice to let the neck relax in backbends, it also causes an over engagement of the upper trapezius muscles, an under working of the neck flexors & a small compression of the cervical spine - meaning if you only practice this one way you’ll get tight traps & a weak neck.
So here are a few tips that I used in my own practice to balance out my backbend.. let me know how you find them! 💖 .
1 - Double Chin - Think your chin to your chest giving yourself a potential double chin. This lengthens & engages the neck while allowing the upper back to open & work. .
2 - Don’t look where you bend! - our need to see where we are going leads to us craning our neck back. Try to imagine your eyes are in the back of your head when you practice these posture looking from here rather then throwing the head back! .
3. If extending the arms above the head (as in low lunge or standing backbend) experiment with keeping your head in line with your arms & reach through the fingers. Aim to keep the lumbar back long and concentrate on leading the backbend through the lift of the chest.
Please comment below if you like and let me know how you get on!