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Head, Neck,Shoulders

Our physical body is stressed and affected by many things: how we sit or stand, temperature changes, repetitive movements, what we eat and drink, and what we are thinking. It is typical of all of us to ignore our body’s discomforts until messages, which start as a whisper, become the cosmic bellow: “Hello? Anybody home?”

The whole sequence takes only five minutes or so and is a great way to begin your day or as a preface to your meditation practice.

Keep the following guidelines in mind when using the three Rs, in this or any sequence of poses. 

  • When you do the Resistance, do not push too hard. This is not a struggle. Remember to stay cool, calm, and focused.

  • Relax, the all-important second R. Let your whole body go limp. Feel it happen. And remember to exhale.

  • Hold the final Restretch position for the recommended number of breaths. If you hold longer, you will overdo the stretch, which can cause injuries.

Neck Tilt

Benefits: Stretching the neck muscles has an immediate effect on your state of mind. Lengthening the larger muscles defuses stress held in the body and helps the whole body to relax. Lengthening and stretching small neck muscles will help quiet the mind and bring on a sense of well-being. This can also help prevent tension headaches.



  • Sit tall with your shoulders down. Use props if needed, such as a block under the knee or a pillow to sit on. Tilt your head to the right side. Rather than bringing your ear to your shoulder, consciously extend and elongate your neck into the space to your right. The opposite shoulder and side of the neck will lengthen as well. Hold for 3 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

  • Now do the three Rs:

  1. Resist. Reach your right hand up above your left ear. Use this hand as a little wall. Press your head gently into your hand, and your hand into your head. Resist for 3 breaths, without moving.

  2. Relax. Stop pushing, relax, and breathe in. Exhale.

  3. Restretch. Softly use your hand to guide your head a little farther into the space to the right. Lower your hand and hold for 2 or 3 breaths.

  • Repeat on the opposite side and observe which side is tighter.


Chin to Chest


Yin tip: The neck is truly the body-mind connection.  This delicate area is made weak and vulnerable due to poor posture, stress, and whiplash accidents. Here’s a tip: To create space within your chin-to-chest stretch, imagine you are holding a golden egg at throat level, then extend and gently lower your chin, holding the imaginary egg.

  • Sit tall and comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your legs folded. (If you’re on the floor, sit on a cushion to help your spine tip slightly forward.) Now slowly lower your chin, remembering the golden egg. Feel your neck muscles and the muscles between your shoulder lengthening. Rest in the stretch for 2 or 3 breaths, then lift your chin and return your head to neutral position.

  • Then, still sitting tall, drop your chin halfway to your chest. Reach up with your hands and place a few fingers on the highest part of your head.

  • Now do the three Rs:

  1. Resist. Gently press your skull back into your fingers while your fingers gently press into your skull. Do not move your head during the resistance for 3 complete breaths.

  2. Relax. Breathe in. Long, slow exhalation.

  3. Restretch. Place your hands above your ears and support your head. Drop your head forward, chin moving closer to your chest. Feel the neck muscles lengthen as you hold the restretch for 2 or 3 breaths.

  • Return your head to neutral position. Sit quietly for a few moments, eyes closed. Enjoy the stillness.


Singing Snake

I call this Singing Snake because it can be used as a variation of Cobra Pose. After the Chin to Chest, there is a natural cue from within to go in the opposite direction, but many people find dropping the head back uncomfortable. The Singing Snake should be more comfortable. If you have neck problems or bone density issues, omit this exercise or do it cautiously.



  • Sitting tall, breathe in with a slack jaw, and relax your body. Exhale. Then open your mouth as wide as possible. With your mouth open, slowly tilt your head back, then tilt your neck back as well. Relax your shoulders. This should feel more comfortable than if you had tipped your head back with your mouth closed.

  • Once your head is tilted all the way back, very slowly close your teeth and lips. When you close your teeth in this extended position, you are supported by the powerful clenching jaw muscles in the front of your neck.

  • Return your head to neutral position. Then slowly and enjoyably lower your chin to your chest to lengthen the muscles at the back of your neck and between your shoulder blades.

Chest Expander

Benefits: This sequence can be done standing, kneeling, or seated in a chair, with or without a partner. This stretch breaks up muscle tension and stress carried within the muscles of your torso. It improves posture and breathing. Take a time-out from the computer and do the Chest Expander on a coffee break. It energizes and clears the brain.


  • Begin by rolling each shoulder in both directions in slow circles—3 to 6 times each way for each shoulder. Then stand, your hands behind you, palms facing your seat muscles, clasping a belt. Separate your hands about four inches more if this bothers your elbows. Note that a partner can be helpful with this warm-up, as you can see me helping Kevin in the photo.

  • Standing tall, roll your shoulders back and down. Straighten your elbows, lifting your arms upward, holding on to your belt. Hold for 2 or 3 breaths, allowing your muscles to stretch. Release.

  • Now do the three Rs:

  1. Resist by clasping the belt and gently pulling downward. Observe how this movement causes resistance and places tension on your upper back, shoulders, and arm muscles. Do not lift your arms at this point; just pull down… and hold the resistance, closing the gates of your shoulders.

  2. Relax. Breathe in, long exhalation.

  3. Restretch. Stand tall and again pull down.

  • Then, holding the belt, lift both arms up…maybe go a little higher…lift up your heart…breathe in…chest lifts…tailbone is down…keep “heart eyes” open as you exhale…hold for 2 or 3 breaths.

  • Lower your arms and release the belt…stand with your eyes closed…observe feelings of lightness in your arms and torso.

Yin tip: When you restretch, lift your arms up in increments, giving muscle fibers a chance to lengthen.


Ring the Gong

Benefits: The turning action gently stretches the torso and back.



  • Stand tall in Sacred Mountain Pose. Your arms hang down heavy and relaxed, and your weight is over both feet. Swing your arms from side to side, as if you were a child. Use your torso and shoulders to help you turn gently, and let your arms follow. Keep swinging, knees bent, from side to side. Repeat 6 to 8 times.

  • Pause. Now make your hands into two soft fists, like clappers in a bell. Repeat the first step for 15 seconds. Swing your arms around to “ring the gong” behind you, giving a little “ding” over each hip.

Shoulder Preparation for Garuda Arms

Benefits: Excellent for releasing tightness in front and back of shoulders. Nice warm-up for long-distance swimming, or your golf or tennis swing.




  • Sit comfortably on a chair or on the floor with your legs folded. (If you’re on the floor, place a cushion beneath your seat to lift your spine.) I also like to place a prop (a block or a ball) under each of my knees for support. Make sure you are comfortable and sitting up straight.

  • Extend your right arm out to the side, parallel to the floor. Then swing it gracefully across your body. Use the momentum to catch your right arm in the crook of your left elbow.

  • Holding on firmly, guide your right arm up toward throat level for a better stretch. Be sure your right arm is above your chest. “Measure” and feel the natural stop of the arm stretching. Hold for 3 or 4 breaths.

  • Now do the three Rs:

  1. Resist with your arm at throat level, pressing the straight arm away from your body while you gently Resist with the crooked elbow. Hold the resistance for 2 breaths.

  2. Relax…breathe in…exhale.

  3. Restretch. Pull the arm very, very slowly across your throat…hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Notice how much farther your arm can stretch. To add a little heat,  place your hand on the back of your neck.

  • Let the right arm go limp. Use the crook of the left elbow like a sling and slowly lower the limp right arm.

  • Then repeat the steps on the opposite arm.


Garuda Arms

Extend your arms out from your sides in a T position. With a big swooping motion, cross your left elbow over your right elbow. Clasp your hands to your shoulders. Give yourself a big hug. Hold for 2 or 3 breaths. Smile! Enjoy giving yourself a hug today.

Now release your hands, keeping the elbows crossed. Place the backs of your hands together. If you are more flexible, put the thumb of your left hand into the palm of your right. Slowly raise both arms up and down.

Release your arms out from your sides to again form a T. Repeat the steps, crossing your right elbow over your left.

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