Discomfort in Neck When Meditating

Question

When I sit for meditation for 10 minutes or so, I feel discomfort near my neck area. Please give me some suggestions.

—Kiran, USA

Answer

Dear Kiran,

I think you might be able to improve your comfort by checking and adjusting your meditation position. Discomfort in the neck can be due to positioning in the area of the neck or lower down the spine.

Let’s start at the base. Your seat should allow you to sit upright, balanced and relaxed preserving the natural curves of your spine in the lumbar, thoracic and cervical area. It is like having a string dropping down the center of your body from the center of the top of your head with all the body parts relaxed and balanced to keep that string centered. You do not want to have spine rounded so that you are slumped forward with shoulders rounded, collapsed chest, head in front of the shoulders or sit so that you are leaning backward and off center. It helps the lumbar curve and further up to have the pelvis gently tipped forward by sitting on an angled cushion or the edge of a blanket or cushion. You might notice that many meditation benches and cushions have that feature built in.

Then check the upper chest region. Sometimes people have a habit of keeping the shoulders tense and shrugged upward. Lift and roll your shoulders up and back, then drop them so they rest in a centered, not rolled forward position. Draw the shoulder blades gently together and uplift the sternum, the center of the upper chest, feel the heart area open, your breath relaxed with good expansion in the lower rib and diaphragm area as you breathe.

Now check to be sure the head is centered on the spine (not jutting forward or leaning back) and your chin is parallel to the floor. (Your adjustments lower down the spine will help with head position). The neck muscles should be relaxed because the head is centered and the neck muscles are not working to hold your head up. Keep the muscles of the jaw and face relaxed as tense muscles there can contribute to neck tension.

It can be really helpful to have a friend take a look at your meditation position with these guidelines in mind. They may be able to see something that you cannot notice. See if making these adjustments allows you to be comfortable for much longer in meditation.

Many blessings,
Nayaswami Mukti