Almost every day I am sitting at a computer hunched over the keyboard, or bending my neck to stare down at my smartphone. And every now and then, I sleep wrong and end up straining my neck. While I have become more conscious of my work-desk posture, I am still not completely immune to neck pain. When my neck does feel a little stiff and out of sorts I have trouble doing my normal yoga practice, so I try a gentle, softer practice that helps ease my neck pain instead of increase it. Below are my favorite yoga poses for neck pain relief.
Start by taking around ten deep breaths, breathing fully in and out into your belly. Shallow breathing (just breathing into your chest and not using your diaphragm) contracts the neck muscles.
Stretch your neck
Sit cross-legged with hands on the floor and shoulders down. Feel your neck begin to grow longer as your chin is tucked and the base of the skull feels as if it is reaching upward. Let your head fall to one side and your opposite shoulder pull down. Rest for a few breaths and then repeat on the other side. Do another similar stretch by dropping your head to one side and placing your hand by the opposite ear. Feel your opposite shoulder being pulled down. To get more of a stretch, lift your chin up. Repeat on the other side. Finally finish with a slow neck roll in each direction.
This one is a no-brainer for pain relief and relaxation. But for an added boost, rest your forehead on a comfy cushion or pillow and extend your arms back behind you to really help release tension.
On all fours, arch your back upward and lett your head fall down for cat pose. Then pull your stomach down to the floor and lift your head up for cow pose.
Wide-legged forward bend
Space your legs out widely with feet forward. Bend over and try to reach your hands to the floor. Clasp your hands behind you and raise your arms over your head. This will help to open the shoulders and spine, decreasing tension in the neck.
Standing Forward Fold
Stand with feet about an inch or so apart. Slowly bend over until you touch the floor (you can bend your knees if necessary). Clasp your elbows and let your head hang. Shake your head yes and no if comfortable.
Lie on the floor and bring one knee to your chest. Move that knee slowly across your body allowing the leg to fall over the other leg. Have your opposite hand reaching to the side and turn your head to look in that direction. Repeat on the other side.
While these poses can help it is also best to take care of the root of the problem. Roll your shoulders a few times a day and sit upright at your desk. Give yourself breaks and get up from your desk to walk around or stretch. Tuck your chin closer to your neck, instead of having it jut forward, a sign of forward head posture or slumping where your head is pushed forward away from your shoulders and your upper back rounds. And avoid staring down at your phone constantly! Simple maneuvers to change your daily habits can save yourself from constant neck pain.
Related: Gentle Yoga for Back Pain
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Photo: Jessica Renae