In the sacred embrace of the sylvan sanctuary that I call home, the verdant tapestry of nature commingles with the ancient art of yoga to form a healing balm for the spirit and body. Here, at our year-round yoga retreat designed for the empowerment and rejuvenation of women, we delve into the depths of self with each mindful breath, stretching not just our limbs, but our consciousness. Today, I wish to impart a remedy for the soreness of a little-known yet profoundly significant muscle – the obliquus capitis superior, the silent sentinel of the upper neck that dutifully holds your noble head atop the atlas of your world.
This diminutive muscle, though often obscured by its more noticeable kith and kin, is instrumental in the delicate ballet of tilting and turning the head. When misused or neglected, like the tender root of a lotus struggling in murky water, it can cause discomfort and hinder the flow of prana, the life force that dances through every cell of our being.
To begin the journey of soothing the obliquus capitis superior, one must enter the state of body and mind that is both a sanctuary and a challenge: the asana. I invite you to assume the pose of ‘Bitilasana’, the Cow Pose, which paves the path to relief. Position yourself on hands and knees, grounding through the palms and softening the gaze downward. Inhale deeply; as you exhale, extend your right arm out beside you, palm facing downward. With another reverent breath, gently arc the neck to gaze past your right fingertips, basking in the delicate stretch along the left side of your neck. The obliquus capitis superior unfurls like the gentle petals of the white lotus amidst the first kiss of dawn's light – be gentle, be patient. Hold this space, breathing in metta – loving-kindness – and as you exhale, release any tension that shackles the muscle.
As the muscle eases, the roots of tension may call out for alternative nurturing. Turning to Mother Earth, one may find solace in the warm embrace of a flaxseed pillow, heated ever so slightly to encourage the flow of chi through the muscle's fibrils. Lay the warmed companion upon the area of discomfort and meditate upon the soothing warmth as it penetrates, softening the pangs of soreness with the tender mercy of a mother's touch.
Ingesting nature's elixirs can also bolster the healing. A sweet steep of ginger root tea, embraced by the warmth of honey, can stoke the inner fires and dispel the stagnant energies that breed discomfort. Ginger's ancient inflammatory-reducing properties are well versed in the sacred texts of Ayurveda, encouraging the smooth flow of bodily energies and harmonizing the doshas.
To further strengthen the obliquus capitis superior, one can dance with ‘Ardha Matsyendrasana’, the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose. Seated with legs extended, bend your right knee, crossing the right foot to the outside of the left thigh, foot firmly planted. The embrace of your left elbow hooks gently around the right knee while the right hand finds its place behind you. It is here, in this twist, that you court balance, gazing over the right shoulder with reverence, nurturing not only the obliquus capitis but also coaxing the dormant serpent of kundalini energy along the sushumna, the spinal column from which all nadis, the energy channels, arise.
If ever the body's wisdom is clouded by the shadows of pain, one may seek the golden light of turmeric. With a few grains of this pungent spice steeped in warm almond milk, haldi doodh, the golden milk, becomes a potion of potent alleviation, a testament to the ancient knowledge that flows through the veins of every healer that has walked the soil of Bharat, our sacred India.
Amidst these remedies, the practice of mindfulness and the cultivation of sattva, the quality of harmony, balance, and peace, are imperative. With each sunrise, I invite you to sit in stillness, eyes softly closed, drawing in the life force of prana with your breath, being ever present with the sensation in your neck, and surrounding it with the purest intention of healing and love.
The path of a yogi is one of eternal learning, of turning inwards to listen to the dialogues within our temples of flesh and spirit. To heal the obliquus capitis superior is to recognize the fine balance of life, to nourish the body with the reverence it deserves, and to walk with head held high, crowned by the infinite cosmos, under the benevolence of the divine.
In union, in yoga, we find the wisdom to tend to the smallest of muscles with the same devotion with which we approach the grand tapestry of our existence. It is there, in the heart space of equanimity, where true healing blossoms like the lotus, unfettered by the mud from whence it sprung. As you tread mindfully along this path, the obliquus capitis superior will find its rightful peace, cradled by the compassionate arms of an enlightened practice.