Device overload? Here are 5 yoga poses to alleviate ‘tech neck’

Device overload? Here are 5 yoga poses to alleviate ‘tech neck’
By Gwen Lawrence | Apr 6, 2016
Special to espnW
Each month, yoga coach Gwen Lawrence shows us five yoga poses designed to keep athletes in the game. This month, she’s tackling the tell-tale poor posture that results from looking at our ever-present devices.

Phone, computers, gaming systems … we spend constant, continuous hours looking down on our devices, often with little regard to how we’re hunched over, locked into a less-than-favorable posture that can result in aches and pain. It’s called tech neck, and from weekend warriors to pros, no one is immune. But, there is hope.

Here are five yoga poses you can do to alleviate tech neck and still succeed as a social media mogul. (As always, consult a doctor before you begin any new exercise program.)

Standing forward bend with neck traction

This simple move is often misunderstood. To be clear, you do not need to have straight legs to accomplish an effective standing forward bend. Quite the contrary, for this version I encourage a bent knee.

Keys to the pose

* You should have strong feet on the floor, usually hips-width apart and parallel.

* The basic idea of the pose is that you fold the torso over the thighs. Feel them connect, then drop your chin to your chest. Straighten your legs just as much as feels comfortable.

* Interlace your fingers, and gently wrap the hands around the neck from the base of the skull. Relax into the weight of the arms on every exhale.

* Keep your eyes open to stay balanced and encourage relaxation.

* Be very aware of the neck lengthening on the exhale. Hold for one minute.

Supported wheel of life

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
This pose is the kingpin of spinal health and alignment. When it comes to the neck, it’s wise to do this pose with blocks under your chest and ear. This supported version is more relaxing and gentler on the rotation of the neck.

Keys to the pose

* Leaning on your right hip, turn your torso to the right as far as you can. Place blocks under your chest and left ear.

* Use your right hand to encourage the left side of your body closer to the ground on every exhale.

* Be mindful that you are heavy on the blocks. Release, and relax for three to five minutes.

* To come out of this pose, bend both elbows like a push up on your exhale. Use your arm strength to come upright and unwind. Repeat on the other side.

Supported fish pose

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
Supported fish has become a fan favorite among all my athletes and students. The relief it brings is significant and fast.

Keys to the pose

* Set one block under your mid-back to encourage a chest opening.

* Set a second block under your head for support. (In time you will not need the second block; your head will easily rest on the floor.)

* Your hips and butt must always be on the floor.

* Relax your legs out straight, with flopped feet.

* Your arms are down by your side with palms face-up. Hold for three to five minutes.

* To come out of the pose, slowly roll over to one side and curl up into fetal position for 10-20 seconds.

Seated cat/cow

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
It is important that you consider the whole spine’s suppleness and flexibility. This move is great for that, as well as training your breath.

Keys to the pose

* Sit easy, crossed-legged, with a blanket or block under your hips to make it easier to sit up straight.

* Inhale, look up, and draw your shoulder blades back toward each other.

* Exhale and keeping the back tall. Drop your chin to your chest and round your upper-back and shoulders.

* Toggle between these poses for two to three minutes, pumping the breath as you go.

Open chest stretch

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
This pose is a slam-dunk. It opens and lengthens the spine for better spinal health and helps decompress your back. It also opens the chest and helps you breathe deeply.

Keys to the pose

* Lie on an physio ball, feeling fully supported.

* Find a position for your arms that feels like a nice stretch and is relatively comfortable.

* Extend the legs and relax them.

* If you feel unstable, lay a towel on the floor in a circle and place the ball in the middle of the towel.

* Inhale and lengthen from belly button to chin. Exhale and lengthen your middle chest through your shoulders and arms.

Hold for three to five minutes, breathing deeply.