Yoga Poses for Neck Pain

Benna Crawford
woman at desk with neck pain

Poor posture, too much screen time, sports injury, accident, or just killer stress can give you a pain in the neck. Try yoga poses to release stress, relieve muscle tension, and restore your stiff and aching neck to full mobility.

Tension and Neck Pain

The following are yoga poses to relieve tension. If your body has suffered some trauma, such as a fall or a car accident, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and physical therapist for treatment of all symptoms, including potential neck pain. Please consult your physician in cases of extreme pain or long-lasting pain. Neck pain can be symptomatic of serious health problems, which may require medical intervention.

If you have a stressful personal life or job, the human body has a tendency to lock up. Muscles tighten, preventing free movement. Generally speaking, the tighter your muscles, the more likely you are to suffer an injury during a minor fall. In addition, having permanently tightened muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and neck, can cause neck pain and tension headaches. Some yoga poses can help relieve this tension, which in turn will relieve the neck pain.

Modified Downward Dog

A modified downward-facing dog -- placing your hands on a wall in front of you instead of on the floor -- can help stretch out the upper back and neck muscles. Stand with your feet directly underneath your hips at a comfortable distance from a wall. Extend your arms. If you have to bend your arms before touching the wall, you are too close. For maximum results, make sure your back is perfectly flat (get help from a spotter if need be). If you feel an unpleasant stretch in the backs of your legs, soften your knees.

Sukhasana Neck Stretch

Pranayama techniques and small neck stretches can have a big impact on minor neck pain. Sit comfortably, back straight and shoulders down. Close your eyes and inhale deeply. On the exhale, bring your chin down to your chest and feel the pleasant stretch in your neck. Hold this position for a few inhales and exhales, then release the head. A variation of sukhasana is to alternate bringing your chin to your chest one time, then your left ear to your left shoulder, then your right ear to your right shoulder. Be sure to stay in each position for at least a few inhales and exhales in order to get maximum relaxation and stretching benefits.

Rear view of woman stretching neck

Seated Twist

From a seated position, legs extended, bend the right knee and place the right foot down on the outside of the left leg. Wrap the left arm around the right knee so your elbow cups the knee. Put your right hand, palm down, on the floor behind you for stability, fingers pointing back. Sitting tall, turn your chin to your right shoulder. Breathe five to 10 long breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Seated twist yoga position

Child's Pose

Relax completely in child's pose, sinking down from all fours so your hips rest on your heels. Extend the arms out in front of you parallel. Rest your forehead on the mat between your arms. Breathe. If your neck permits, gently turn your head to the right and rest it on the mat, left ear down. Then turn your head to the left, right ear down. Skip this step if your neck is too stiff.

woman in child's pose

Sun Salutations

Sun salutations are a cure-all for what ails you. This sequence of yoga poses strengthens and stretches all areas of the body and it is an excellent meditative practice. Use it to correct poor posture, strengthen the shoulders, and align the spine to relieve tension and prevent future neck strains. Run through the entire sequence several times without stopping for a light aerobic workout that loosens tight muscles and invigorates your body.

Perfect Posture Prevents Pain

The key to solving neck pain problems is addressing posture, muscles, and tension. Yoga poses for neck pain can help with all of these, but try to be mindful of your posture throughout the entire day. Sit up straight in the car and lower your shoulders. Do the same when sitting at a computer. The less damage you do to your back and neck each day, the better these yoga poses will feel.

Yoga Poses for Neck Pain