Yoga for neck pain is one of the most common requests we get inside MerryBody Online Studio. You’re nodding already, aren’t you? You’d request it too, wouldn’t you! Keep reading because these yoga neck stretches are for you, there’s even a 7 minute class to take you through our favourite yoga neck stretches below.
Neck, shoulder, and upper back pain can be debilitating… so let’s do something about it.
Before we get into our delicious easy, yoga neck stretches let’s work out WHY we have neck pain.
Neck pain is common for a few reasons, the first one being that we are all sitting at desks a lot longer than we used to (and are designed to).
Even though you may have all the good intentions to sit with good posture, the human body can only hold that posture for so long before it gets tired and starts to slump.
Your head is as heavy as a bowling ball, and your neck has the job of holding it up all day long, so it’s really important that you learn how to stretch your neck properly to assist the neck as much as you can.
Dr Brett Hill, our good friend and epic Chiropractor says “maintaining your neck range of motion is not only important for retaining function and preventing injury, it is also vital for simulating and de-stressing your brain.” We know, we know, now you really want those stretches (they’re coming!).
If you’re at a desk for most of your day, use your phone for a big chunk of your day, or you drive a lot, the tendency is to poke the chin forward and down toward the screen to see better and to concentrate.
Now imagine how your neck feels if your head is as heavy as a bowling ball? All the weight is coming forward and jeez, your neck has even more work to do now!
If you are unaware of this posture and continue to hold your neck and head this way, not only will you suffer from neck pain, this can also create rounded shoulders and what some call ‘tech neck’, technically this is called cervical kyphosis.
This is where a kind of ‘hump’ starts to form just below the back of the neck due to the head and neck being held in this way for long periods of time and the cervical spine starting to curve abnormally.
You might also suffer from headaches, tension, and pain in the upper back and shoulders and reduced mobility of the neck and upper back.
If you’re like OMG this me, I don’t want tech neck, I don’t want neck pain anymore… don’t stress, you can help your neck out by doing the yoga neck stretches we are going to share with you (the best bit… you can do them wherever, whenever!).
We asked our good friend Dani Smith, who is a Soft Tissue Therapist and Wim Hof Practitioner over at Glow For Life…
Why is it so important to stretch the neck?
“Stretching keeps the muscles healthy which means flexible, strong and with great range of motion in the joint.
When we are sitting for long periods of time looking at screens the muscles in our neck shorten and become tight contributing to poor posture, joint pain, strains, and muscle damage and can lead to ‘”tech neck” (as discussed above).
Taking our neck through stretches in all range of motion is extremely important for the integrity of our neck and to prevent pain and ailments but also important for the function of our nervous system.
The neck, also known as the cervical spine provides protection for the many nerves travelling down from the brain. If the neck is out of alignment then these nerves can be compressed or impinged which means the function of the nerve is compromised and processes like decreasing inflammation and regulating our fight or flight response are negatively impacted.” – Dani Smith.
We’d also recommend checking in with your workspace, make sure your screen is at eye level and your keyboard is at a height where your elbows make a 90 degree bend.
There are lots of other ergonomics to keep in mind with your desk set up, but from our experience, these two key changes have made our posture SO much better and help alleviate neck pain. Join with yoga neck stretches and you’re on the way to a healthy neck!
The other reason you may suffer from neck pain is due to how your body holds tension and stagnant emotion.
One of the most common places to hold tension according to Ancient Chinese Medicine is the neck/shoulder area (others being jaw, head, stomach and hips).
Think of a stressful moment in your life, did your body feel relaxed? Were your shoulders down away from your ears? Hell no, you were tense, you were wearing your shoulders like earrings!
And if you don’t know how to release this tension, the body can hold onto it, creating pain and stiffness in the neck.
Again… don’t worry, we share some yoga neck stretches below, let’s get you some neck pain relief! The best part about these neck stretches is that they can easily fit into your everyday.
The best Yoga for neck pain relief…
The great thing about Yoga is this way of movement is very focused on opening up all areas of the body, including the neck. But sometimes you just want a good neck stretch! Something you can do wherever you are. Whether you’re driving, waiting in line at the groceries, replying to an email, or sitting and watching TV… these neck stretches are amazing.
Simple yoga neck stretches
Sitting down or standing, take a deep breath in and feel your spine lengthen, then drop your left ear to your left shoulder. To intensify the stretch, reach your right arm long by your side and flex the wrist. Hold for 5-10 breaths
Neck stretch slide
Keeping your head reaching for the left shoulder (as you were in the above stretch), take a deep breath in through the nose, and as you exhale slide your chin toward the outside of your left shoulder as if you were trying to look over the shoulder. Be sure to keep the ear close to the shoulder, try not to lift the head up. Inhale, come back to the simple stretch and then exhale slide it back out again. Do this 5 times.
Neck stretch tilt
Once again come back to the simple neck stretch, this time take a deep breath in, and then as you exhale you want to try and tilt your head so your chin lifts toward the sky. But once again keep the head low to the shoulder. Inhale come back to the simple neck stretch and exhale tilt again. Do this 5 times.
Once you’ve done these three yoga neck stretches, swap sides.
Front neck release
This neck stretch feels SO good and is perfect as it’s the opposite motion to when we are sitting at a desk all day. Clasp your fingers and make goal posts with your thumbs. Place your clasped fingers just below your collar bone. Press your hands into your chest and then drag the skin down. Inhale stick your chin forward and then exhale lift your chin up toward the sky. Hold for 5 breaths. This is one of our favourite yoga neck stretches!
See how easy these neck stretches are?! You can literally do them at your desk and it will take you less than 5 minutes.
We guarantee afterwards you’ll feel a renewed sense of energy, not only because you’ve released tension but you’ve also allowed yourself to breathe deeply for those 5 minutes!
If you want us to guide you through these stretches so you know exactly what to do… try this short MerryBody class, it’s got all the above yoga neck stretches in it! We have a feeling you’re going to love it.
If you love the Yoga Neck Stretches class we’d love to hear about your experience. Any questions, reach out and we’ll get back to you!
Emma + Carla
P.s if you did love the Neck Stretches class come and try out MerryBody Online Studio. Your first 7 days are free, sign up here.