Welcome back Tai Chi students! This week, we are revisiting a stretch we did on the blog nearly three years ago, so that all our new readers can benefit from learning it, and the ones who have seen it can have a healthy reminder (as well as learn some new information).
So let's talk about the neck. Most of us lose full range of motion in the neck simply because we do not use it enough. It's like the old saying goes: if you don't use it, you lose it. The neck is designed to turn 90 degrees to the left and 90 degrees to the right, but most people can only turn 45 degrees to each side. When turning your head around on your neck, you should be able to see the back of your shoulders.
While you are doing this stretch, the body will try to take shortcuts at certain points, when you cannot turn any more with good alignment, and it will tilt the head toward the side of the turn (bringing your chin closer to your shoulder). Make sure you maintain correct alignment and keep the chin parallel to the floor. Doing the stretch with a friend or family looking and helping you maintain alignments goes a long way.
Use the block, a book, or any other object to help keep the neck and head straight. Without the block, the neck and head will extend forward toward the wall, which will brake alignments.
Also: focus on moving up through the neck more than on turning around. What I do is use the inhalation to lengthen through the neck upward (like there is a string pulling on the tip of my head from the heavens) for about 9 inhalations. Inhaling helps with the upward movement and releasing shoulder tension. Then, after 9 inhalations, I slightly turn on an exhalation.
Remember the 80 percent effort rule! Less is more when it comes to stretching, especially the neck!
And that's it! Happy stretching, deep breathing, and empty your mind!