I’ve come to realized the little details of the body often are being ignored. And this particular muscle– Sternocleidomastoid is probably one of them.

I often wondered why my neck hurts doing Asanas such as Utthita Trikonasana and Purvottansana. I always thought, perhaps it’s due to my neck problems and therefore I shouldn’t overstrain my neck by turning it back to its neutral plane.

However, there’s also another possibility that my Sternocleidomastoid muscles are tight thus having limitations in turning or extending my head in the above Asanas mentioned.

Sternocleidomastoid is a 2-headed strap-like muscle located on both sides of the front of the neck.
It originates from the sternum and clavicle, inserting on the skull, behind the ear (the mastoid process).

Bilateral contraction (or stretching) of this muscle will flex ( or extend) the neck forward and draws the chin downward ( or chin upwards and away from the neck, respectively) . Whilst doing so, the upper trapezius and dorsal neck muscles (e.g. splenius and semisplinalis ) located at the back of the neck are stretched (or contracted, respectively). If you do feel the knots at the back of the neck, gently massage the knots away while breathing deeply and slowly.This is a good way of releasing some tension on the neck when one has been seated and crouched in front of their computers for long hours.

Unilateral contraction of this muscle will rotate and tilt the head to face the opposite side.
For instance, in Utthita Trikonasana, the lower-side sternocleidomastoid is being contracted while the upper-side sternocleidomastoid is being stretched. Hence the head is able to turn to face the side.

Doing some light stretching of the neck should be inculcated into our daily lives. Again, keep breathing, keep stretching……


Samantha Lee

200hr Weekend YTT