Shoulder and neck pain are common occurrences all around the world. Both the neck and shoulders are complex areas, which makes them susceptible to strain and injury. Neck and shoulder pain can also be caused by stress. Luckily, yoga has shown significant promise in reducing pain in the neck and shoulder. According to studies, it can also increase the overall sense of well-being and reduce anxiety in those who practice it regularly. So, we’ve gathered 10 yoga poses to help relieve shoulder and neck pain.
A Word About Pain
Before you start these exercises, you should know that none of them should cause you pain. If they make your shoulder or neck pain worse— or cause any pain at all— it’s best not to continue that exercise. Some of the more advanced poses may cause you to stretch to your capacity, therefore causing some discomfort, but pain is never a good sign. If you do experience pain during these exercises, consider seeing a chiropractor. One of the best ways to figure out what’s wrong and get back to normal is chiropractic care for neck pain. You can also talk to your regular physician or a physical therapist for advice and possible solutions.
1. Hand and Elbow
This pose is great for opening up the shoulders while practicing proper posture.
- Begin by sitting with a straight spine, either in a chair or on the floor.
- Raise your right hand up, your bicep along the ear. Bend the arm at the elbow and let your hand drop behind your head, resting it between your shoulder blades.
- Take your left hand and place it on your right elbow, pushing it gently to increase the stretch.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing deeply.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
- Do a total of 10 of these, 5 on each side.
2. Eagle Arms Pose
This pose is great for stretching your shoulders, arms, neck, and upper back.
- Begin in a seated position with a straight spine, in a chair or on the floor.
- Put both arms out in front of you and bend your elbows so each forearm is at a 90-degree angle to the upper arm.
- Put your left arm slightly up, and bring your right arm underneath your left elbow.
- Wrap your right forearm and hand around your left, either grabbing your left wrist or having your palms almost touch.
- Let your shoulders sink away from your ears and bring your forearms slightly away from you.
- Slowly turn your head to the right, looking over that shoulder.
- Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Release and repeat with the left arm on the bottom and looking over your left shoulder.
- Perform this pose 8 to 10 times, total.
3. Cobra Variation Pose
This one is great for strengthening the lower back and abs while stretching the shoulders and neck.
- Begin by lying on your belly with your head turned to the right and your hands resting palm-up on your lower back.
- As you inhale, lift your upper body up and bring your right hand around to touch just above your eyebrow (like you’re saluting).
- At the top of the move, your head should be looking straight, your thighs and hips still flat on the floor and your left arm still resting palm-up on your lower back.
- Exhale and release back down, placing your arm back where it started.
- Since you’re going to alternate sides, bring your head down facing left this time.
- Repeat on the left side.
- Perform 3 times on each side.
4. Locust Pose
The locust pose is good for opening up the chest while stretching the neck and shoulders.
- Lie on your belly with your hands interlaced behind your back.
- Inhale and bring your upper body off the floor (or mat) bringing your interlaced hands up as far as you can behind you. (For a more advanced pose, raise your legs behind you without bending them at the knees.)
- Hold this pose for 5 seconds and release, exhaling back down.
- Repeat 6 to 8 times.
5. Standing Forward Bend
- Stand with your feet comfortably apart and facing forward.
- Breathing deeply the whole time, slowly bend forward, starting with your head and shoulders and ending at your waist. Keep your chin tucked to your chest.
- Once you’re bent over, you can touch your feet or place your hands near your feet.
- If you can comfortably keep your legs straight for a hamstring stretch, do so. If not, bend your knees slightly. This pose is not necessarily about your legs.
- Allow your arms to relax, letting gravity stretch your shoulder joints with the weight of your arms.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then slowly bring yourself back up.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times.
6. Cat and Cow
- Begin on all fours, your thighs and arms straight.
- Inhale while raising your head toward the ceiling and arching your back toward the floor (cow).
- Hold for a few seconds, feeling the stretch.
- Exhale while tucking your chin toward your chest and curving your back toward the ceiling (cat).
- Hold for a few seconds, feeling the stretch.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Begin standing on your knees with your arms stretched straight above your head.
- As you exhale, engage your abs and bend at the waist while bringing your arms behind your back to rest on your low back, palms up.
- Bring your hips toward your feet, and your head toward the floor, stopping just before they touch.
- Inhale and reverse the move, returning to the starting position.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times.
8. Easy Twist
- Begin by sitting cross-legged with your spine straight and your neck elongated.
- Place your left hand on your right knee and your right palm on the floor just behind your hip.
- Exhaling, twist your upper body to the right, using your hands to assist you. Turn your neck to look over your right shoulder.
- Inhaling, lengthen your spine as much as you can and turn your head back to the left without turning your body.
- Exhaling, tilt your head toward your left shoulder, stretching the right side of your neck.
- Repeat the neck stretch for 5 breaths.
- Release the twist and do the same thing again on the other side, everything reversed.
9. Knees to Chest
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping your hips, back, neck, and head on the floor, reach forward with your arms and grab a knee in each hand.
- Gently pull your knees back to your chest while you exhale. Keep your spine and hips pressed to the ground.
- Inhale back into the starting position.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times.
10. Child’s Pose
It’s always a good idea to end in a relaxing pose so we can gather ourselves and let any anxiety or stress float away from our bodies.
- Start on all fours, thighs and arms straight, knees slightly wider than hips.
- As you exhale, drop your hips down onto your feet while you let your arms stretch out in front of you.
- Let your hips rest on your feet, your arms in a relaxed stretch ahead of you, and your forehead on the floor.
- Rest here as long as you want, taking deep breaths and centering yourself.
Other Health Benefits of Yoga
Now that you’re armed with the best yoga poses for neck and shoulder pain, you can practice them at home. Some of them are even good to do at the office, especially if you sit at a desk most of the day. When your pain goes away, don’t stop doing yoga! It has many, many benefits. Yoga can help you lose weight, increase your energy, and eliminate stress. Even 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference.
About the Author:
Dr. Brent Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients in Alaska through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and massage therapy with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life.