Stiff neck? Zen it out with these yoga postures

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Are you stressed out? You might be feeling it in your body. Tightness in the neck and back often comes from the way your body tenses up. It's also from those habitual positions like texting, driving and typing we tend to put our bodies in every day.

Michael Cokinos and Alma del Toro both practice yoga to help their bodies feel their best. For Cokinos, neck tension lead to his first yoga class.

"I was having problems with my C5 and C6 [vertebrae], and it was causing pain in my shoulders and my back," says Cokinos.

After two C-sections, Del Toro dealt with lower back discomfort.

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"It was pinching -- kind of uncomfortable pain," explains Del Toro.

Big Power Yoga instructor Sarah Martin helps clients with neck and back tightness daily.

"The muscles of the back that get strained because of our sedentary lifestyle, as well as the muscles in the neck that become strained and tight from our lifestyle [...] create shortness in the front body and the backs of the legs," explains Martin.

To relieve stress and create space in the neck and lower back, Martin recommends stretching.

"An exercise you can do at home very easily is sit cross-legged. Extend one arm out to the side. Take your head toward the other direction, so your ear is touching the shoulder and breathe into the area that is feeling the stretch," Martin advises.

"Then, you can turn your head toward your shoulder to see if you need a stretch of the back of the neck," says Martin. This exercise stretches the neck. Alternate each side a couple of times, moving slowly and breathing.

For the next exercise, grab a belt to try a shoulder opener.

"Take the belt in your hands," Maritn explains. "How tight your shoulders are will depend on how wide the grip with your hands. Bring your arms up, and then as you exhale, you bring your arms up. Inhale, arms up. Exhale, arms back."

For lower back tension, Martin says it's important to stretch the hamstrings.

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"You'll extend one knee into your chest, put the belt around the sole of your foot and extend it to the ceiling. The point is to not bend your knee. It's to straighten out the leg," says Martin. Repeat on each leg.

Opening the hips also helps relieve the lower back.

"Extend your hands overhead with your knees bent. Let your knees fall to the right. Then, take your right ankle on top of the left leg over your leg close to your knee. Then, take your left wrist in your right hand," adds Martin. Try three to five breaths on each side.

Then, get on all fours to extend the entire spine.

"On my inhale, I'll drop my chest, look forward and slightly up, send my hips to the ceiling keeping my naval engaged. Then, on my exhale, I press into the floor, round my back towards the ceiling and look towards the floor and maybe towards my naval," explains Martin.

Martin says incorporating yoga into our daily lives will help improve the way our bodies function.

"I have had people after one class say they felt better," says Martin.

For Cokinos and Del Torro, they keep coming back for more.

"I think it's not only the pain. I think yoga helps you with the stress, which I think contributes to the stress and the way you choose to breathe throughout the day," says Del Torro.

Along with de-stressing the body, yoga also will improve our posture. Of course, always consult a physician for any severe pain.
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