Don't Neglect Your Neck

Body builders and fitness enthusiasts alike often disregard exercising the neck. Some even believe that a strong neck might look too masculine or make their head or shoulders appear too small. In both a practical and cosmetic sense, a strong neck encourages proper posture and protects the head from shock and trauma. But, the function of healthy neck muscles go beyond good looks and protecting the body against injuries.

A healthy, flexible neck allows free circulation to the head, which includes the brain along with the pituitary, pineal and thyroid glands. These endocrine glands directly affect sleep, creativity, metabolism and higher awareness. Circulation in the neck affects the eyes as well. So adding some neck fitness into your day is a good practice. This can take place first thing in the morning or when you find yourself tired behind your desk. It can be as simple as nodding your head forward and backward (like saying "Yes, I will keep exercising and treating myself right!"). And looking left to right (like saying NO to greasy French fries and too many pastries).

Just watch many athletes before they enter the playing field, home plate or boxing ring. They are usually rolling their shoulders and neck to loosen themselves up. You can do the same thing before an athletic competition, writing an exam, giving a presentation or attending an important meeting. When your neck is relaxed, the rest of your body follows suit.

While you might not need the neck strength of a professional athlete, neck-stretching and strengthening exercises will improve circulation and muscle tone and decrease tension. (Remember to consult your health professional before starting any exercise program.)

Two simple neck toners that you can feel almost immediately are as follows:

SIDE NECK STRETCH

1. Sit upright on a chair with your left hand firmly gripping the bottom of your chair.

2. With your right hand, reach over top of your head to the left side of your head.

3. Then, with your right hand gently pull against the side of your head, while you resist the pressure using your neck muscles. Hold for 7 seconds and then relax.

4. Then, while still gripping the chair with your left arm, gently pull your head,, while pulling your right ear towards your right shoulder.

You should feel the stretch along the left side of your neck. Hold for 7 seconds and relax.

5. Repeat for the right side of your neck. G-e-n-t-l-y work up to three sets.

The isometric tension helps release tension before the stretching phase of the movement. This exercise is great for office workers or drivers who spend long hours sitting and building up tension in their necks and upper backs.

HEAD RAISE

Lie on your back, on a couch or bed, with your head hanging over the edge.

Gently, let your head roll back.

Keeping tension on your neck muscles, gently bring your head forward to try to touch your chin to your chest.

Repeat five to ten times, slowly and gently.

This is a nice way to tone up the area under the chin while strengthening the neck. You can also let your head hand over the edge of the bed and feel the renewed circulation and relaxation through your eyes, face and neck.

Body builders and fitness enthusiasts alike often disregard exercising the neck. Some even believe that a strong neck might look too masculine or make their head or shoulders appear too small. In both a practical and cosmetic sense, a strong neck encourages proper posture and protects the head from shock and trauma. But, the function of healthy neck muscles go beyond good looks and protecting the body against injuries.

A healthy, flexible neck allows free circulation to the head, which includes the brain along with the pituitary, pineal and thyroid glands. These endocrine glands directly affect sleep, creativity, metabolism and higher awareness. Circulation in the neck affects the eyes as well. So adding some neck fitness into your day is a good practice. This can take place first thing in the morning or when you find yourself tired behind your desk. It can be as simple as nodding your head forward and backward (like saying "Yes, I will keep exercising and treating myself right!"). And looking left to right (like saying NO to greasy French fries and too many pastries).

Just watch many athletes before they enter the playing field, home plate or boxing ring. They are usually rolling their shoulders and neck to loosen themselves up. You can do the same thing before an athletic competition, writing an exam, giving a presentation or attending an important meeting. When your neck is relaxed, the rest of your body follows suit.

While you might not need the neck strength of a professional athlete, neck-stretching and strengthening exercises will improve circulation and muscle tone and decrease tension. (Remember to consult your health professional before starting any exercise program.)

Two simple neck toners that you can feel almost immediately are as follows:

SIDE NECK STRETCH

1. Sit upright on a chair with your left hand firmly gripping the bottom of your chair.

2. With your right hand, reach over top of your head to the left side of your head.

3. Then, with your right hand gently pull against the side of your head, while you resist the pressure using your neck muscles. Hold for 7 seconds and then relax.

4. Then, while still gripping the chair with your left arm, gently pull your head,, while pulling your right ear towards your right shoulder.

You should feel the stretch along the left side of your neck. Hold for 7 seconds and relax.

5. Repeat for the right side of your neck. G-e-n-t-l-y work up to three sets.

The isometric tension helps release tension before the stretching phase of the movement. This exercise is great for office workers or drivers who spend long hours sitting and building up tension in their necks and upper backs.

HEAD RAISE

Lie on your back, on a couch or bed, with your head hanging over the edge.

Gently, let your head roll back.

Keeping tension on your neck muscles, gently bring your head forward to try to touch your chin to your chest.

Repeat five to ten times, slowly and gently.

This is a nice way to tone up the area under the chin while strengthening the neck. You can also let your head hand over the edge of the bed and feel the renewed circulation and relaxation through your eyes, face and neck.


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