Q: I get knots in my shoulders and neck on a daily basis, even though I stretch. What can I do?
A: Many of us often feel stiffness in the body even if, like you, we stretch on a regular basis. A common misconception about tightness in the body is that it is directly informed by the amount of stretching we do or don’t do. While stretching through the practicing of yoga postures absolutely helps to open the body and will help to resolve illness, your tight muscles are likely related to emotions you’re holding onto or even the result of a great deal of stress.
To help to temper and release the presence of negative emotions being held in your body, begin a daily breathing practice every morning. Breathing slower and fuller both as a daily morning practice and throughout the day will lessen the incidence of stress and help you to respond less intensely to adverse situations. Sit up either on the floor or in a chair. Inhale through the nose, and allow the inhalation to first expand the abdomen before the chest begins to expand, and then exhale through the nose as you draw the abdomen in. Inhale for several counts and then exhale for twice as many counts.
Another way to help yourself to open up the body and avoid stiffness is to refrain from eating for the last four or five hours of the day. If you eat during these final hours, you wind up going to bed with food still in your stomach. Since the body mostly shuts down during sleep so that it can rejuvenate itself, the digestive process becomes much weaker. With weaker digestion, the food sits in the GI tract longer and creates greater toxicity that then finds its way throughout the body. When you’ve eaten late at night, you will likely wake up in the morning feeling stiffer and more lethargic. This will add to your problems with your shoulders and neck.