Asanas to counter scapular protraction

I have always struggled with tension in my neck area, a result of spending long hours at my work desk. When we sit at our desks and use our computers, our shoulder blades protracts, i.e. they move away from the spine. This is termed “scapular protraction”.

Working for long hours continuously at our desks in such a position (scapular protraction) results in increased neck pain. This is because overtime, the muscles and other soft tissues tighten up due to the excessive workload required to hold the head in position. This eventually decreases blood flow and oxygen to the soft tissues, thereby causing pain (Dahiya and Ravindran, 2013, Effect of Scapular Position in Computer Professionals with Neck Pain, International Journal of Science and Research).

Yoga poses that do precisely the opposite of scapular protraction, i.e. scapular retraction, are effective in countering neck ache and pain. “Scapular retraction” refers to the shoulder blades moving towards the spine, as opposed to moving away from the spine. This counters the effect of prolonged scapular protraction.

The most effective asanas that aid in countering the effect of scapular protraction are backbends, as the back bending action involves the retraction of the shoulder blades. There are other asanas that would aid in relieving neck ache as a result of prolonged scapular protraction as well. Here are some simple asanas that you can try: 

  • Paschima Namaskarasana (Reverse prayer)
  • Bitilasana (Cow)
  • Bhujangasana (Cobra)
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward facing dog)
  • Setu Banda Sarvangasana (Bridge)

So, if you work at your desk for long hours everyday, start with these asanas to prevent neck ache today! 

Tan Tian Hui (August 2017, 200 hr YTT)

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