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Article: Combat Neck & Shoulder Pain with These 7 Yoga Poses

Combat Neck & Shoulder Pain with These 7 Yoga Poses

Combat Neck & Shoulder Pain with These 7 Yoga Poses

Do you regularly suffer from tightness in your neck and shoulders? 

Working from home aside, when we spend years of our life working with the same repetitive motions, we start to develop neuromuscular memory.

This can mean we get used to having ‘a pain in the neck.’ Maybe it’s from hunching or from looking down at a screen, but most of us experience the tight neck and shoulders that leaves us feeling like a scrooge and steals our ability to focus.

To train your body to feel good, a daily yoga practice can get you free of that habitual tension stored in the neck and shoulders.

Even scientific studies say yoga poses for pain work with regular daily practice over the course of a few weeks.

These exercises/yoga for neck pain target the upper trapezoids which are some of the most used muscles in the body. You’ll find that these exercises/yoga for shoulder pain mostly counteract the contraction of your upper trapezoids which happens when typing, talking on the phone, or moving a mouse.

The other poses help counteract a hunched position by putting you in the opposite position where your chest is open. Yoga will help you get to know how to work with your body to feel good. Try this simple yoga sequence for neck and shoulders each day for a week and see if that tension fades away!

These Yoga Poses Will Help Shoulder & Neck Pain

Here are some of the many ways that you will find yoga helps with neck/back pain.

  • Deep breathing helps lower inflammation.
  • Relaxing and stretching the muscles allows knots and tight muscles to start to loosen.
  • They help correct posture and maintain it.
  • Yogic breathing helps release stuck emotions and strengthen your nerves, which helps you handle stress without getting tense.

While yoga itself targets many different parts of the body, doing poses that focus on certain results can offer you the benefits you want. Some yoga poses may not be good to do if you have really intense shoulder and neck pain until you first work on lowering the tension.

If you have neck/shoulder pain, the question you need to ask is, what yoga poses are good for back/shoulder/neck pain?

While the yoga pose chaturanga can build more neck tension, these poses will help melt it away. Poses that involve yoga neck stretches can also help you fix your spine alignment by building stronger muscles along the spine to correct posture.

As always, we recommend that you talk to your doctor before taking on any new exercise program - especially if you suffer from severe neck or shoulder pain. 

7 Easy Yoga Poses for Neck & Shoulder Pain

Use this easy yoga for neck and shoulders sequence to get yourself feeling back to your best self!

A person doing child's pose.

Child’s Pose

This pose will help lengthen your shoulder muscles and relax your neck while helping to align your spine.

  1. Sit on your heels and bring your knees slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Walk your hands forward on the ground until your forehead rests on the ground.
  3. Take five slow and deep breaths in and out of your nose and then return to seated position.

A person doing cat pose.

Cat Pose

This pose helps decompress your spine to bring back natural movement in the joints while helping to get your synovial fluid moving, which promotes flexibility.

  1. Come to hands and knees with hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  2. Spread your fingers and press into your hands as your round your back like a scared cat.
  3. Take three slow deep breaths in and out of your nose in this position and then return to a neutral spine.

A person doing the upward facing dog pose.

Upward Facing Dog

This pose helps strengthen your rhomboids that pull your shoulders back from a hunched position while also releasing your shoulders from your ears and stretching the pectorals.

  1. Lay on your stomach and place your palms face down under your shoulders with your toes untucked and legs zipped together.
  2. Press into your palms to lift your chest and see if you can straighten your arms comfortably. If you feel any pain, go a little lower to your personal point of flexibility.
  3. Bring your shoulders down away from your ears and take five slow deep breaths in and out of your nose before lowering back to your stomach.

A person in thread the needle pose on a yoga mat.

Thread The Needle

This helps stretch the shoulders and lengthen the upper trapezius to reduce contraction in the muscle and fascial tissue that surrounds the muscle.

  1. Come to hands and knees and raise the right arm up so it’s in line with the left arm twisting your spine.
  2. Bring your right arm under your left armpit and rest the right side of your head on the ground so your right arm is perpendicular to your body with your hips higher than your head.
  3. Reach your left arm forward with your palm facing down and take five slow deep breaths here, relaxing your neck and shoulders more on each exhale.
  4. Place your left palm next to your face on the ground and press into it to lift yourself up and bring your right arm back up in line with your left arm to counter the deep twist you just did.
  5. Repeat the same process with the left arm.

*You may choose to make this a restorative pose by holding each side for at least two minutes.

A person in puppy pose on a yoga mat.

Puppy Pose

This pose helps your posture by creating an arch in the spine and opening the chest. It stretches the shoulders gently to reduce tight muscles.

  1. Starting on your hands and knees, walk your hands forward as if you were going to rest your chest on the ground creating a triangle between your hands, hips, and knees.
  2. Keep your hips directly over your knees and point your tailbone up.
  3. Relax your neck as you breathe slowly five times in and out of your nose and then walk your hands back to the original position.

Two women do the cow face pose showing you both the front and the back of the pose.

Cow Face Pose

You may need a yoga strap or towel to do this pose if you have tight shoulders. This will help improve shoulder flexibility and loosen tension in the neck.

  1. Begin in a seated position and stack your right knee over the left with feet pointing to the sides.
  2. Grab your strap or towel with your left hand and raise your left arm up so the strap hangs down your back.
  3. Reach behind your back and grasp the strap with your right hand and walk your hands towards each other as you lean forward and take five slow deep breaths in and out of your nose.
  4. Sit back up and release the grip on your strap. Switch your legs so the left knee is on top and then do the same shoulder stretch but with the right arm up and the left arm behind your back.

A person doing corpse pose.

Corpse Pose

This releases tension throughout the body that can lead to pain. It rejuvenates your nervous system allowing you to feel calm and relaxed for the rest of the day.

  1. Lay down on your back and allow your ankles to fall away from each other.
  2. Bring your palms face up alongside your body and close your eyes.
  3. Allow your natural breath to happen as you give yourself a break from thinking for seven minutes.

Get more yoga pain relief poses in Mastering the Backbend: Free Your Spine.

A Few More Tips

The deeper you breathe when you do these poses, the more benefit you will receive from them. You can do these as a flow or individually, as needed. Use these poses like tools in your pain relief arsenal, sometimes nothing is better than doing some cow face stretching after a long day of hunching over your keyboard.

Also, one time won’t fix everything, it’s important to be consistent about doing the poses will keep the tension from building up over time and allow you to develop flexibility and strength.

Above all, stay hydrated. Our water intake affects our bodies in more ways than we even realize. If you are making sure to keep drinking lots of water throughout the day, you are actually helping to prevent soreness and to reduce inflammation that may be contributing to your pain.

You’ve got the tools, now go get that pain relief! You got this.

We recommend you try Yoga Flow for Nighttime: Slow Down & Breathe next.

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