Neck Stretches for Ex Smokers
If you haven't read breathing exericses for ex smokers, I'd suggest reading that article first. It provides the basic breathing movements that are used in these next stretches.
Neck stretches for ex smokers, why would you want them?
Actually they are a chance to do something positive for your body and a chance to practice the ex smokers breathing technique while improving neck shoulder and chest mobility, since your neck directly attaches to your ribcage and shoulders.
From a yogic point of view, the desire to smoke might affect or be related to the throat chakra.
Smoking can be a social habit with smokers getting together and communicating or sharing. Or it might result from a desire to be accepted. It can also be an introspecitve habit. In that case the chakra it may be affecting is the third eye chakra.
Anyway, for social smokers, neck twists may positively affect the throat chakra particularly if you focus on feeling your cervical vertebrae and upper thoracic vertebrae and ribs while stretching your neck.
Choosing Your Focus
These neck stretches are simple, but here again it is the execution and where you place your awareness while doing them that will make the difference.
Twisting Your Neck
When turning your head to the side to twist your neck, keep your ribcage facing the front. also try to keep both sides of your neck equally long. You neck has seven vertebrae and these verebrae are located towards the back of your neck.
As you twist focus on feeling each vertebrae and feeling each one turn with respect to the one below it. Also imagine your skull as an extra large vertebrae and feel it turning with respect to the uppermost cervical vertebrae. Use the ex smokers breathing technique. Pull your head towards the back of your body while inhaling (lift your strernum and ribs) and then move your head forwards and lower your sternum while exhaling.
Make the movements feel comfortable by moving slowly and smoothly.
Stretching the Side of Your Neck
For myself I often feel an emotional release when bending my neck to the sides. I want to cry. Some people get a similar response when doing hip stretches. I say that here so that you won't be caught unawares if the same happens to you.
When bending the neck to the right, allow the left side of your ribcage to lift a little. Also lift your left shoulder. The idea of this is to isolate the stretch to the musclse of your neck.
Also, when bending your neck to the right, contract the muscles on the right side of your neck to help release and stretch the muscles on the left side of your neck. Here again use the ex smokers breathing method.
Bending the neck backwards is often avoided because it is thought of as dangerous. I often leave it out because of the perceived danger of this action.
Stretching the Front of Your Neck
It is dangerous if you quickly and suddenly move your head back. However if you move slowly and mindfully and if you stop if you feel pain then you should be able to keep your neck safe. If in doubt, then leave this exercise out.
Bend your neck backwards. You may notice your jaw wants to open. For now let it open. As keep your neck bend backwards and as you inhale move your head slightly back and lift your ribs. As you exhale move your head slightly forwars. Stay aware of your neck and move slowly and smoothly, even when lifting your head at the end of the exercise.
Stretching the Back of Your Neck
The final movement is to tilt your head forwards. For myself I find that the back of my neck gets very tight and so this can feel uncomfortable at first.
When doing this stretch you may feel it in the back of your neck and also in the back of your upper thoracic spine, just below the neck or at the top of your upper back. Here again the breathing movement is very slight. Pull the back of your head back but keep your head down as you inhale, then let it move forwards as you exhale.
For all of these exercises, if you make a mistake with the breathing dont' worry about it. Initially focus on stretching your neck without the breathing awareness. Instead focus on feeling your neck. Then after you are comfortable with feeling your neck and slowly moving deeper into each stretch then add the ex smokers breathing method.