Driving, hunching over a computer, poor posture, texting and carrying a heavy bag—many of the common activities in daily life contribute to neck pain. Neck pain affects approximately 1 in 3 people annually and can cause headaches, stiff muscles and trouble moving your head. Fortunately, neck pain usually goes away on its own in one or two weeks, but practicing certain yoga poses can alleviate pain along the way.
Stretching the neck, along with the chest, shoulders and back all contribute to reducing neck pain and you’ll find a mix of stretches in the following yoga poses for neck pain.
1. Thread the Needle (Urdhva Mukha Pasasana)
Thread the Needle Pose brings a gentle twist to your spine while stretching the chest, arms, shoulders, neck and upper back.
- Come onto your hands and knees in Tabletop position.
- Inhale to lift your left arm to the sky, following with your gaze if that feels good on your neck.
- Exhale to lower your left arm, threading it underneath your right hand and resting your shoulder on the mat.
- Press your right hand into the mat to lessen the intensity of the pose.
- Stay here for 3 to 10 breathes, then press into your right hand to come out of the pose.
- Repeat on the other side.
2. Cat/Cow Pose
Cat/Cow Pose helps loosen up the spine and neck. It’s a common pose often practiced in the beginning of yoga class to warm up the body.
- Come onto your hands and knees in Tabletop position with a neutral spine.
- Inhale to lift your head and tailbone, dropping your belly.
- Exhale to round your back like an angry cat, dropping your head and engaging your lower abdominals.
- Repeat the sequence 3 to 5 times with your breath leading the movement rather than your movement leading your breath.
3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Standing Forward Bend stretches the entire backside of the body and helps alleviate tension carried in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Touching your hands to the floor is not the goal of the pose, nor is straightening your legs.
- Stand with your feet together or hip distance apart.
- Inhale to bring your hands to the sky.
- Exhale to slowly fold forward while lengthening all the way through your fingertips.
- Once you are fully folded over, make sure there is a gentle bend in the knees and breath deeply as your head and upper body passively hang.
- For another variation, grab either elbow and gently sway from side to side.
4. Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Extended Puppy Pose is a prone yoga pose that opens the chest while lengthening through the shoulders, back and neck.
- Come onto all fours in Tabletop position.
- Slowly reach your bum halfway back towards your heels and crawl your hands forward, bringing your head and chest closer to the ground.
- Stop when your forehead, chin or chest touch the floor, lengthening through your arms.
- Modify this pose by placing your hands on blocks or your forehead on a blanket to bring the floor closer to you.
- Increase the intensity of this stretch by coming onto your fingertips.