Whether you woke up with tension in your neck or you often have low-grade pain because you spend so much time hunched over your phone or laptop (hello, tech neck!), you know that neck strain can be terrible. What’s worse, it can also lead to poor posture, irritability, and even migraine headaches.
If you’re dealing with neck pain, it’s important not to do anything to make it worse. Avoid deep stretches, says Tiffany Cruikshank, an acupuncturist, yoga teacher, and founder of Yoga Medicine®. And if the muscldes in your neck are in spasm, Cruikshank recommends taking an epsom salt bath to help calm the inflammation.
See also 6 Stretches to Do at Work
When you’re ready for some gentle stretching, try this sequence created by Yoga Medicine® therapeutic specialist Diane Malaspina, Ph.D. Grab a foam roller, block, and strap and practice one or all of the following yoga poses designed to ease neck pain—fast.
Yoga for Neck Pain: A Home Practice
Neck Stretches with Strap
Come to a seated position and place a strap or resistance band around the base of your skull. Holding either side of strap and extend your arms forward. Relax your shoulders and make “Egyptian-like” movements, moving your head forward and back 15 times.
See also 4 Yoga Poses for Better Posture, Less Neck Pain
Myofasical Release On Block
Place a block on medium height and rest your head on the edge of the block (where the base of your skull and your neck meet). Hold here for 8 slow breaths, then turn your head as far to right as possible. Then, move your head back toward your center line about halfway (until you feel a small mass of muscle), and hold there for 8 slow breaths. Finally, take your head back about a quarter way toward your centerline (keeping your head tilted slightly to the right). Again, you’ll locate another small mass of muscle. Pause and breathe here for 8 slow breaths before returning your head to the center and repeating on the other side.
See also A Healing Yoga Sequence to Ease Neck + Shoulder Pain
Seated Neck Stretches
Come to a comfortable seat with a long spine and relaxed shoulders. Drop your chin to your chest and avoid rounding your shoulders forward. Hold here for 5 breaths, stretching the extensor muscles in your neck. Rotate your head to the right so that your right ear comes toward your right shoulder and hold for 5 breaths. To add a little more stretch, bring your left palm to the floor alongside your left hip and hold for 5 more breaths. Return your chin to your chest repeat on the left side.
See also 5 Shoulder-Opening Binds to Ground & Cleanse the Body
Trapezius and Neck Release
From a comfortable seat, bring your left hand behind your body, resting your left hand on your right thigh. If you are unable to reach your thigh, rest your hand on the floor behind you. Drop your head to the right and hold for 10 slow breaths, then repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
See also 4 Poses to Prevent + Heal Shoulder Injuries
Thoracic Extension on the Foam Roller
Come on to your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lie on a foam roller, so that your mid rib cage area (bra strap line) rests on the foam roller. Interlace your fingers behind your head and keep your neck in neutral position. Lift your hips and roll the foam roller toward your neck and then back to your mid rib cage. Roll between these two areas for about 30 seconds, then release and place the foam roller to the side. When you’ve finished, lie on your back and feel the blood flow and release of the connective tissue in your neck.
See also 7 Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart and Shoulders
Myofascial Release for Rotator Cuff and Latissimus Dorsi
Come to your left side and bring the block to medium height. Drape your left arm over the block, so that the edge of the block rests in your armpit and the side of your ribs. Rest your head in your hand and lean slightly back until you feel the block applying pressure to the backside of your ribs/edge of your shoulder blade. Hold for 20 slow breaths, then repeat on the right side.
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About the Author
Bridget “Bee” Creel is the editorial producer for Yoga Journal. She works as a yoga teacher in NYC and is the co-founder of the wellness community, Mood Room.