Life can be stressful and carry a lot of physical tension, especially in the neck and shoulders. Many people hold stress in these areas which can lead to pain and discomfort. If you suffer from frequent neck, shoulder, and upper back tightness, incorporating yoga into your self-care routine can help release this built up tension.
Certain yoga poses specifically target the muscles in the neck and shoulders to provide relaxation. When performed properly and consistently, these poses will stretch and strengthen the area to relieve aches, pains, and stiffness. The controlled breathing utilized in yoga is also therapeutic for eliciting deeper relaxation throughout the entire body.
Ready to give your neck and shoulders some sweet relief? Try these calming yoga poses:
Begin on your hands and knees with knees hip-width apart and toes touching behind you. Slowly sink your hips back towards your heels and rest your chest on your thighs. Extend your arms forward with palms facing down and relax your head and neck. Breathe deeply and focus on feeling the shoulders and upper back loosen. Hold for up to one minute.
Get on all fours with a flat back. Inhale and drop your belly toward the mat while lifting your chin and chest up for cow pose. Exhale and arch your back up toward the ceiling while tucking your chin into your chest for cat pose. Repeat this back and forth motion continuously, coordinating the movement with your breath. The spinal flexion will release tension in the neck and back. Complete up to 10 rounds.
Downward Facing Dog
From all fours, tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor to move into an inverted V shape.Ground down through your hands with palms flat and turn your triceps forward. Relax your head and neck while stretching out the entire backside of your body. Take 5-10 deep breaths then gently release back to your hands and knees.
Standing Forward Fold
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Inhale and reach your arms overhead. Exhale and hinge forward at your hips to fold your torso over your legs. Let your head and neck go completely loose. Place your hands on the floor, legs, or hover them over your head. Breathe deeply for up to 1 minute. Slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time when ready to exit the pose.
Stand or sit tall with relaxed arms by your sides. Inhale and lift your shoulders up toward your ears. Exhale and roll them back and down in a circular motion. Repeat this 5-10 times then reverse the direction. The repetitive motion melts away upper back and shoulder tension.
Sit or stand with proper upright posture. Gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder and hold for 5 breaths. Inhale back to center then exhale and tilt to the left for 5 breaths. Repeat 2-3 times on each side. Next, drop your right ear down towards your right shoulder and hold for 5 breaths. Inhale back to center then do the other side. Complete 2-3 times per side.
Lie on your back and place your palms under your glutes with elbows close to your body. Gently press down through your forearms and elbows to lift your chest and head off the floor. Drop your head back and relax your neck while opening up the front of your torso. Hold for 5-10 breaths taking it easy on your neck. Hug your knees into your chest before slowly lowering back down.
Seated Neck Massage
Sit up tall then gently grasp the base of your skull with your hands. Use your thumbs to apply pressure down the back of your neck and along the upper traps. You can also gently squeeze and rub the muscles to relieve tension. Be careful not to apply too much pressure. Massage for 1-2 minutes as it feels helpful.
Yoga is a wonderful healing tool for freeing neck and shoulder tightness. A consistent practice focusing on poses that target these problem areas will keep your upper body feeling supple and relaxed. Always move slowly and cautiously within your limits to avoid injury. With time and patience, the therapeutic nature of yoga can melt away muscular stress and pain for good.