Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain: 12 Poses to Try

Tension and tightness can settle in the shoulders and neck if you are stressed or sitting a lot. The tendency to hunch shoulders and develop poor posture is exacerbated by remaining in the same position for an extended period. 

If you suffer from neck or shoulder pain, basic yoga practices can significantly reduce your discomfort and even build strength.

Table Of Contents

Reducing Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck and shoulder pain can creep up on you over time. Using yoga and addressing causes will help.

  • Stress – Fight or flight mode causes tense muscles, so the reduction of stress is key.
  • Sitting for long periods of time – Sedentary lifestyles can cause pain in hunched shoulders and neck. Get up, move and stretch regularly.
  • Sleeping position – Sleeping in a way that twists the neck and can cause pain. Sleep with proper pillows that align the neck, shoulders and spine.
  • Injury – Decreased range of motion and inflammation can cause pain. Incorporate stretching into your routine to increase range of motion.
  • Bad posture – Slouching can cause pain. Yoga is an ideal way to stretch and strengthen muscles. 

Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain Relief

If you want to reduce neck or shoulder pain, try adjusting your desk height, chair and how long you sit without a break. 

The right yoga practices can also help. 

Below are 12 simple poses that will begin your journey to feeling better. Make sure to stretch only as you are comfortable, and this pose will slowly increase your range of motion and reduce pain.

1. Upper Trapezius Stretch

Upper Trapezius Stretch

This pose is good for stretching the neck, particularly if you spend hours looking at a screen.

  • Sit tall with your back straight.
  • Rotate your neck clockwise then counterclockwise.
  • Repeat the first step.
  • Hold the left side of your head with your right hand.
  • Pull your head gently toward your shoulder with the right hand and feel the stretch.
  • Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

2. Cross Body Shoulder Stretch

This stretch works on your deltoids and triceps.

  • Sit tall with a straight back.
  • Extend arms straight out in front and put your right elbow inside your left.
  • Bring your left arm towards you at shoulder height.
  • Drawing your left arm across your body..
  • Grip your left elbow with your right hand and push your left arm towards your body until you feel a stretch in the right shoulder.
  • Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

3. Overhead Shoulder Stretch

Overhead Shoulder Stretch

This yoga stretch works on the length of muscles in deltoids and triceps and is a nice one for weightlifters and runners.

  • Sit or stand with a straight back.
  • Raise both arms straight up overhead.
  • Hold your right elbow with the left hand.
  • Pull the right arm towards the left, behind the head if needed.
  • Hold the pose for 15 seconds until you feel the stretch, then repeat on the other side.

4. Seated Shoulder Pull Stretch

This stretch targets the tops of your shoulders and neck —– deltoids, pectorals and trapezius. Extend the stretch to deepen it.

  • Sit with you back straight.
  • Put your arms behind your back, then hold the right wrist or hand with the left.
  • Drop your shoulders, and lift through the chest area.
  • Pull your right arm to the left just until you feel the stretch.
  • Tilt your head to the left to stretch the neck too.
  • Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

5. Cat-Cow Pose (Bitilasana Marjaryasana)

Seated Shoulder Pull Stretch

This pose reduces tension in the upper back, neck and trapezius. It’s great for stress.

  • Begin in the tabletop position,  with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart.
  • Inhale deeply. 
  • Arch your back towards the floor while dropping your stomach downwards. Look towards the wall. (Cow pose)
  • Exhale, round your spine and hollow out your stomach. Push up from the ground and curl your head into your body. (Cat pose)
  • Repeat the cycle for 30 seconds. Follow inhale and exhale patterns for the best results.

6. Overhead Side Stretch

This yoga stretch benefits the side of the body and targets the latissimus dorsi.

  • Kneel so thighs and spine are straight.
  • Bend at the knees enough to put your left hand on the ground just behind and a couple of inches beside the left foot.
  • Reach with right arm overhead and extend your hand to the left until you feel a stretch. Follow the movement with your gaze.
  • Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat with the other side.

7. Modified Staff Pose (Dandasana)

Modified Staff Pose

he modified staff stretches your shoulders, arms and wrists by working on deltoids, rhomboids and wrists. It’s relatively easy to practice.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front (Staff pose). Put hands flat beside your hips with fingers pointing forwards and feet flexed up.
  • Walk hands behind you a few inches away from your hips.
  • Turn hands to face backwards for a better stretch.
  • Lift through your chest and press your  palms into the floor while looking up to the roof.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.

8. Rag Doll Pose (Baddha Hasta Uttanasana)

This stretch releases tension down the spine by targeting upper trapezius, rhomboids, hamstrings and the full spine.

  • Stand straight (Mountain pose).
  • Either lift both arms over the head, or for a less strenuous pose, put your hands on your hips.
  • Hinge at the hips and bend forward.
  • After your body folds into position, grab opposite elbows with both hands.
  • Bend knees a little and sway your upper body from side to side.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

9. Hand Clasp

Hand Clasp

This pose relieves tight shoulders. It works the middle trapezius, rhomboids, deltoids, hamstrings and spine. It’s a nice one if you spend a lot of time hunched over a desk, books or papers.

  • Stand straight (Mountain pose).
  • Put your hands behind your back and clasp them together.
  • Straighten your arms and squeeze your hands to feel the stretch in the shoulder blades.

10. Cactus Arms (Sukhasana Cactus Arms)

This pose relaxes the shoulders to improve range of motion with the Latissimus dorsi, upper trapezius, lower back and pectoralis major.

  • Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat.
  • Form a goal post with arms to form a 90-degree angle.
  • Be sure the mat supports both your arms and shoulders. Arch the back for a deeper stretch.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.

11. Thread the Needle (Urdhva Mukha Pasasana)

Thread the Needle

This is a beginner’s yoga pose to relieve shoulder tension. It targets triceps, latissimus dorsi and deltoids.

  • Begin with the tabletop pose and untucked toes.
  • Lift the left hand overhead, then thread it under the body to the right side. Rest flat on the ground.
  • Gaze to the ceiling. Stretch the left arm forwards for a deeper stretch.
  • Hold 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side. 

12. Extended Puppy Pose

This pose helps increase flexibility and releases tension. It targets latissimus dorsi, abs, obliques and teres major and minor.

  • Begin with the tabletop pose and untucked toes.
  • Walk hands forwards and keep hips lifted.
  • Keep the forehead on the mat. Walk forwards with fingers until you feel the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Final Thoughts on Yoga for Shoulder and Neck Pain

Releasing tension in the neck and shoulder area while reducing pain is important when it is affecting your day to day life. Learning and working on yoga poses with stretching, conscious breathing and body awareness will help reduce the physical issues and can make a positive change in your feeling of well-being when done on a regular basis.

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