When you’re under stress, it’s common for you to experience neck and shoulder pain. And that means getting through the day without wincing can be challenging. You may even convince yourself to skip your workout because of it.
But, there are some easy stretches that, when done regularly, can help relieve and possibly even ward off, this tightness. Whether your neck and shoulders are sore because you slept funny or overdid it in your exercise routine or because you’re stressed, these nine moves can help relieve the pressure.
9 Yoga Poses to Help Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain
1. Arm Across Chest Pose
Sit comfortably on the floor or on a chair with your spine straight, neck elongated, and shoulders in a relaxed position. Reach the right arm out so it is at shoulder height and bring it across the chest toward the left side of your body. Turn your gaze to look over your right shoulder. This pose will stretch the neck and back of the shoulders. Hold for approximately 8-10 breaths then switch sides.
2. Thread the Needle Pose
Begin in a tabletop position, with your knees aligned with your hips. Walk the left hand forward as far as you can and thread the right arm under it. Rest your right shoulder and your right cheek on the mat. Close your eyes and relax into the pose as it gently stretches the shoulders, arms, upper back, and neck. Hold this pose for approximately 8-10 breaths. Switch sides and repeat.
3. Eagle Arms
Stand or sit comfortably with your spine straight and your neck comfortably elongated. Reach out both arms so they’re at shoulder width and height. Bend the right arm up towards the head and sweep the left arm under the right. Bend and wrap the left arm around the right one. The eventual goal is to have the palms touch. Gaining that flexibility may take time, so if the palms don’t reach, grasp the wrist of the right arm with your left hand. Breathe deeply. Lower your shoulders away from your ears, gently pull the hands away from the face, and slowly turn your gaze over the left shoulder. This pose stretches the muscles in your arms, shoulders, upper back, and neck. Hold the pose for at least five breaths and work up to 10 breaths. Switch sides and repeat.
4. Ear To Shoulder/Neck Rolls
Sit comfortably on the floor or on a chair with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed. Draw your chin toward your chest and gently roll your right ear toward your right shoulder. Place the fingertips of your left hand on top of the left shoulder and your right fingertips above the left ear. The pressure you put on each of the two touch points determines how deep the stretch is. This stretch works the neck and shoulder muscles. After approximately five breaths, switch sides and repeat. Then, roll your head side to side for approximately five breaths.
5. Shoulder Rolls
Stand or sit comfortably with a straight spine. Place your fingertips on top of your shoulders. Pull your elbows toward each other in the front of the body to stretch out the shoulder blades and upper back. Pull them up to stretch the triceps. Fan them to the side to stretch out the chest and front of the shoulders. Pull them towards each other in the back of the body for a deep shoulder and chest stretch. Hold each pose for several breaths.
6. Cat/Cow Stretch
Begin in a tabletop position, with your wrists aligned with your shoulders and knees aligned with your hips. With each inhale, arch your back and look towards the ceiling (this is the cow). With each exhale, tuck your chin into your chest, pull your tailbone under, and round your back and shoulders (this is the cat). The combination of the two stretches the neck, chest, shoulders, spinal column, and lower back. Switch between the two for 8-10 breaths.
7. Hand To Elbow
Begin this pose by sitting or standing comfortably with a straight spine. Reach the right arm up, bend the elbow, and drop your right hand between the shoulder blades. Place your left hand on the right elbow and press gently to intensify the stretch. This pose stretches the front of the shoulders, triceps, and the back of the neck. Hold the pose for 8-10 breaths. Switch sides and repeat.
8. Backward Hand Clasp
Stand with your feet hip width apart. Interlace your fingers behind you and press your palms together. Lift the arms as high as you can until you feel the stretch in the front of your shoulders. Hold the pose for 8-10 breaths.
9. Supported Fish Pose
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you or with your knees bend and your feet resting on the floor. Place a small stack of blankets or two yoga blocks behind you so that when you lean back, one will rest between your shoulder blades and one will support your head. Lean back onto the blocks and relax your arms on other side of your body. This pose will stretch the chest, the front of the shoulders, and neck. Relax in this pose for 8-10 breaths.