Keeping your body relaxed and strengthening the deep stabilization muscles of your core, called centering, are the two main principles of Pilates. The exercises emphasize stretching with control, breathing and relaxation, which helps to relieve neck and jaw tension. Pilates exercises such as the Swan-Neck Roll and Threading the Needle stretch the muscles of your throat and neck.
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The Preparation is a Pilates exercise that teaches the relaxation principle of Pilates. It may be used in the beginning of a Pilates workout to relax your jaw, neck, hips, spine and thighs. Lie on your mat, face up. Bend your knees and place your bare feet flat on the mat, legs and feet together. Soften your shoulders to the floor, relax your jaw and breathe deeply. Imagine your back melting into the mat and your spine elongating. Take deep breaths through your nose and remain in this position until you feel completely relaxed.
The Swan-Neck Roll
The Swan-Neck Roll stretches the muscles of the throat, neck, abs and spine. Perform the exercise with your mouth closed, breathing through your nose. Relax your jaw and drop your shoulders down and back, away from your ears -- tensing your shoulders will result in neck tension. Lie on your stomach, rest the tops of your feet on the floor, place your hands next to your shoulders and press your upper body off the floor as you straighten your arms. Scoop up with your head to feel a stretch through your neck and chest. Turn your head to the left and feel the stretch. Bring your chin to your chest as you turn your head to the right for another stretch before returning your head to center. Stretch again through your neck and chest and roll back down.
Threading the Needle
Threading the Needle targets tense muscles of the upper back and neck. It is important to keep your shoulders down and pulled back during this exercise, which strengthens the muscles near the shoulder blades. Come onto your mat on all fours, aligning your hands with your shoulders and your knees with your hips. Straighten your spine so that your back is flat, treat your neck as an extension of your spine and look down. Bend your right elbow and reach under your body to place the back of your right hand on the floor. Rotate your shoulders to the right and slide your right hand along the floor toward your left until your right shoulder is on the mat. Follow the movement of your right hand with your head until your head, too, is resting on the mat. Reverse the motion and repeat on the left.