Yoga Moves

A Ballet Dancer’s Secret for Ironing Out the Kinks in Your Neck

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsJanuary 1, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Hoxton and Sam Edwards

You can crush your workout, fill your body with nutritious food, and sleep to your heart’s content. But if your desk job or a shoulder bag is making your neck hurt, you still won’t feel 100 percent. Donna Flagg, a dancer, ballerina, and stretching instructor at Broadway Dance Center, says that when upper-body discomfort is cramping your style, one neck and shoulder stretch is better than the rest.

“You know how you always see people use one hand to pull their head to the side to stretch their necks? What if I told you that you’re not really stretching the muscle when you do that,” says Flagg. “To holistically stretch something, you need two [muscles] to work opposite one another.” In the case of neck stretching, that means you need to get your shoulder involved.

To accomplish a counterbalanced neck and shoulder stretch, Flagg recommends dropping one ear to one shoulder without using your hands. Then, keep it there and slide the opposite shoulder down,” she instructs. So if you’re tilting your ear to the right, pull your left shoulder down; if you’re tilting your ear to the left, pull your right shoulder down.

“This happens inside your body, so nothing else moves,” says Flagg. “Don’t tilt, don’t lean, don’t move anything except that shoulder sliding down on the inside. Immediately, you are going to feel exactly what I’m talking about: one end of the muscle pulling away from the other! And boy, it feels good.”

Let me tell you: “It feels good is a vast understatement.” If you want to go just a little deeper though, Flagg says you can lift your chin just slightly. And when you come out, make sure to release your shoulder first before bringing your neck and chin to neutral. Ahhh, much better right?

Dance your heart out with this workout:

Read about how Flagg stretches her feet and the 3 things she never does when stretching her hamstrings. 

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