How to Banish Tech Neck With 3 Simple Exercises

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Technology has altered our experience of life in countless ways that are considered beneficial. But the aches and pains associated with leaning forward to scroll or text at all hours of the day? Not so much. The posture commonly known as tech neck or text neck is very much a negative. Each time you experience its aftereffects, your instinct may be to stretch in an attempt to ease the tension in your neck and upper back. That can bring temporary relief. But if you want to address and correct the cause of the situation, you need a longer-term solution. Namely, tech neck exercises.

What Exactly is Tech Neck?

Your head weighs 10 to 12 pounds (about 5kg). The bony and muscular structures of your neck are designed to support that weight when you hold your head upright. Problem is, each time you lean your head forward, that weight is displaced and creates a greater demand on the neck, shoulder, and back muscles.

Over time, looking forward and down causes a change in your posture known as tech neck. (Illustration: angelhell | Getty)

The farther forward you lean and the longer you stay in that position, the more tension is exerted on these muscles. The result is tech neck, a perpetual forward-hunched posture that’s associated with neck, shoulder, and jaw pain, tension headaches, and even compromised breathing and balance.

The answer is, rather obviously, taking yourself back to a neutral posture as frequently as possible. Even better if you can retrain your default posture from forward to upright by practicing tech neck exercises that strengthen your neck muscles. Specifically, you want to learn how to subtly engage the deep flexors along the front and back of the neck. When contracted, these draw your chin back, rather than allow it to jut forward, which helps bring your posture back to neutral.

Something as habitual as your posture is an unconscious pattern, making it easy to forget there’s an alternative to your default position.  Being aware is key, and t these another thing, like tech neck exercises, to your already overwhelming “should do” list. But there are simple strategies will helpthat strengthen and rebalance your neck muscles so you can get rid of tech neck aches and pains for good.

3 Tech Neck Exercises to Eradicate Pain

Practice these strengthening moves any time you have a moment or include the tech neck exercises in your yoga practice.

(Photo: Andrew Clark)

1. Familiarize Yourself With a Neutral Neck Position

Awareness is a crucial step in creating any change. But it’s hard to be conscious of your head position when you can’t actually see yourself and need to navigate by how it feels. Lying on your back can help. The flat surface of your mat aligns your head with your back ribs and pelvis to create a neutral posture that you try to replicate when you stand.

While you’re in this neutral position, you can practice simple movements that help undo your forward-leaning postural patterns. Head nods are one of them. Think of them as Cat and Cow poses for your neck.

How to Practice Head Nods: Lie on your back and rest your head on the mat. Feel how it aligns with your back ribs and sacrum. Tilt your chin away from your chest and notice how that deepens the curve along the back of your neck. Press the back of your head gently into the mat and feel the muscles on the back of your neck engage.

Then tuck your chin toward your chest and notice that the space between the back of your neck and your mat decreases. Feel the muscles on the front of your neck contract.

Alternate between these two positions a few more times, letting the movement become more subtle each time, until you find your way back to neutral. Your chin won’t be lifted upward or aggressively tucked, and there will still be a small space between the back of your neck and the mat.

Continue to press the back of your head into the mat and tuck your chin slightly, creating a slight but balanced engagement in the muscles along the back and front of your neck. Familiarize yourself with the sensation in your head, neck, and body.

How to Practice Head Nods in Yoga: Once you’re familiar with head nods, practice finding a neutral head and neck position any time you lie on your back, including as you move into Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), in Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana), Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana), and in preparation for the ultimate reset at the end of class, Savasana.

Mountain Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

2. Practice That Neutral Neck Position

It’s one thing to hold a neutral head and neck position when you’re lying down with gravity assisting you. It’s another to recreate that position when you need to resist not only gravity but your posture tendencies. A necessary step as you get rid of tech neck is familiarizing yourself with a neutral head position when you’re sitting or standing.

Intentionally returning your head to a neutral position at any opportunity helps in the short term by minimizing the tension on the smaller muscles of the neck and upper back. In the long term, it reinforces a neutral head and neck position as your default posture.

You can recreate the feedback you had while lying on the mat by simply clasping your hands behind your head. Eventually, you’ll create familiarity with how it feels and you won’t need your hands behind your head.

How to Practice Head Press: Interlace your fingers behind your head and rest your thumbs along either side of the back of your neck. Actively press your head against your hands to recreate the straight line created between the back of head, back ribs, and sacrum when you were lying on your back.

Explore a little movement here. As you lift your chin, use your thumbs to feel something of a hinge between the base of your skull and the top of your neck. Tuck your chin and feel that space open. Slowly oscillate between the two positions a few times, making the movement smaller and smaller until you recreate your new neutral. You’ll learn that your chin doesn’t need to be lifted or aggressively tucked to maintain the small natural curve at the back of your neck.

Continue to press the back of your head into your hands while also tucking your chin slightly. Feel for balanced engagement in the muscles along the back and front of your neck.

How to Practice Head Press in Yoga: Once you have a feel for the head press, practice it in any yoga pose where you’re upright, with or without the external feedback of your hands behind your head, including Hero Pose (Virasana), Easy Pose (Sukhasana), Mountain Pose, (Tadasana), Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I), and Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II).

A person demonstrates a variation of Locust Pose in yoga, with their hands by their sides
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

3. Learn to Hold That Position

Once you have a feel for a neutral head and neck position, you need to strengthen the muscles along the back of your neck to counter the unhelpful muscular patterns of tech neck. Pressing your head into your hands in head presses will kickstart the process, but your neck muscles need more of a challenge to handle the real-world load of gravity. You can train your muscles anytime you are lying face down simply by lifting your head away from the mat.

How to Practice Head Lifts: Hover your forehead just off your mat as you feel the muscles on the back of your neck contract. Then press your forehead down into the mat, slightly tuck your chin, and feel the muscles on the front of your neck engage. Move between the two positions a couple of times, making your movements smaller and more subtle until you are able to balance the two.

Then float your head slightly off the mat, using the muscles on the back of your neck to hold its full weight without letting your chin jut forward or aggressively tucking it into your chest. You’ll still have a small natural curve at the back of your neck. Practice breathing here with ease and then lower yourself back down to the mat.

Once you are holding your new neutral head and neck position against gravity without strain, challenge yourself to find neutral head and neck position without external feedback from the floor, your hands behind you, or the floor in front of you. This tests your capacity to recreate your new relationship between head, neck, and torso based purely on internal awareness.

How to Practice Head Lifts in Yoga: You can incorporate this awareness any time you hold the weight of your head upright against gravity. Locust Pose (Salabhasana) is the perfect place to start, but the challenge also applies when you are at an angle to gravity, as in Chair or Fierce Pose (Utkatasana). You can up the ante by practicing it in the balance poses such as Bird Dog and Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III)

And, of course, you can practice head lifts in the real world situation of looking down at your computer or device. Whether you love your screens or hate them, they’re not going anywhere. Why not create space within your existing yoga practice to balance out any poor postural patterns? Just because tech is an inextricable part of your life doesn’t mean that tech neck needs to be.

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