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6 Yoga Poses to Release a Stiff Neck

6 Yoga Poses to Release a Stiff Neck

Neck pain can be a persistent hindrance, stemming from various causes such as prolonged sitting, repetitive strain, or stress-induced tension. It can also occur due to poor sleeping posture. The discomfort often extends beyond the neck, affecting shoulders and back, sometimes culminating in headaches or reduced mobility.

However, finding relief might be closer than you think. Incorporating yoga into your routine can alleviate neck pain by targeting tension and promoting flexibility. Research has shown that consistent yoga practice not only eases existing pain but also enhances overall functionality.

By engaging in specific yoga poses designed to release stress from the neck, and improve posture, you can experience significant relief, potentially transforming chronic discomfort into lasting comfort and mobility.

6 Yoga Poses to Relieve Neck Pain 

Cat-Cow Pose

The rhythmic movement of the neck and back in the cat-cow pose, Marjariasana, relieves stiffness, tension and knots from the neck and shoulders. Regular practice helps stretch and relax the muscles in the region.

Cat-Cow Pose

How to do the Cat-cow pose

  • Come into a neutral position on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be placed underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
  • Now inhale and arch your back to come into the cow pose. When you do this, you will gently raise your head and neck upwards too. Tilt your pelvis back so that your tailbone sticks up. Do the movement slowly from your tailbone up your spine such that your neck is the last to move. 
  • Keep your abdominal muscles engaged. Allow them to hug your spine by pulling your navel in. 
  • Now exhale and round the back coming into the cat pose. Now you will tilt your pelvis forward and tuck your tailbone in. As you let this movement move up your spine, the round will happen naturally. 
  • Keep your navel pulled in toward your spine. Drop your head and look down, keeping your neck long. 
  • Repeat the cat-cow movement 6-7 times, coordinating with your breath to completely stretch and relax the back. 

Cow-face pose

Known as Gomukhasana, the cow-face pose stretches the shoulders, upper back and neck muscles. It also opens up the chest, relieving tightness that surrounds the upper body. 

Cow-face pose

How to do Cow-face pose

  • Begin in Dandasana (Staff pose).
  • Bend your right knee and bring your left foot to the outside of your right hip, threading it under your right knee. Simultaneously, place your right foot on the outside of your left hip, aligning your right knee over your left knee.
  • Ground through your sitting bones. Inhale as you lengthen your spine, extending your arms sideways with palms facing forward.
  • Internally rotate your right shoulder, turning your palm towards the wall behind you and pointing your thumb downward. Move your right arm behind your back, guiding your hand up between your shoulder blades with the palm facing outward.
  • Extend your left arm upward, fingertips reaching towards the ceiling, keeping the palm facing forward. Bend your elbow and reach down for your right fingertips, intertwining your fingers if possible.
  • Your right knee is now positioned on top, and your left elbow points upward.
  • Engage your shoulder blades by pressing them against your back ribs, creating an open chest. Hold the pose for a few breaths.
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Thread-the-needle pose

A backbend and chest opener, thread-the-needle pose relieve tension and pain in the neck, shoulders and upper back. This posture is also a twist that is extremely relaxing for the upper back and shoulders. 

Thread-the-needle pose

How to do Thread-the-needle pose

  • Start in a neutral position on all fours, keeping your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Tuck your toes under.
  • Open up your chest to the right as you extend your right arm toward the ceiling. Direct your gaze toward your raised hand.
  • Now move your right arm under your chest toward the mat. Your torso should naturally shift to face downward. Keep both knees and your left arm grounded for support.
  • Continue to slide your right arm onto the mat, allowing your right shoulder to rest on the mat. Extend your left arm overhead so your fingertips touch the mat, and rest the right side of your head is on the mat. Continue shifting your right fingertips to the left until you feel a stretch. Hold the pose and focus on your breathing. 
  • Now repeat on the other side.

Half-lord of the Fishes pose

A deep spinal twist, the half-lord of the fishes pose twists and stretches the upper back, shoulders and neck. This asana relieves tension, pain and stiffness from the back and neck region while also benefiting the abdominal organs and digestion. 

Half-lord of the Fishes pose

How to do Half-lord of the Fishes pose

  • Sit in Dandasana with your feet together and spine straight. 
  • Now bend the left leg and place the left foot flat beside the right hip. 
  • Take the right leg over the left knee and place the left hand on the right knee and the right hand behind you. 
  • Now slowly twist the waist, shoulders and neck to the right and look over the right shoulder.
  • Ensure your spine is straight. 
  • Now look over the right shoulder while taking slow deep breaths. 
  • Release and repeat this on the other side. 

Warrior 2

Known as Virabhadrasana 2, this asana strengthens the legs, back, shoulders and arms. The strengthening effect on the muscles supporting the neck are beneficial for keeping the neck strong and healthy. 

Warrior 2

How to do Warrior 2 pose

  • The starting position is the same as Virabhadrasana One. Stand at the center of your mat. Now place your right foot at the front of your mat and left foot at the back. Your left foot should be turned outwards, about 90 degrees (or slightly less) and the hip points are facing the left side of your mat.
  • Align your front heel and back arch. Now gently bend the right knee so that it comes directly over the right ankle and your thigh is as close to being parallel to the floor as possible.
  • Keep your shoulders over your hips and bring your hands parallel to the mat, with one arm pointing towards the front foot and the other hand pointing towards the back leg. Turn your head and keep your gaze (Drishti) towards the fingertips of the arm in front. 
  • Stay here for five to ten deep breaths while maintaining your alignment.

Legs-up-on-the-wall pose

Legs up on the wall pose is a relaxing, restorative yoga asana, this posture has strong healing benefits. It is very therapeutic for the back, shoulders and neck, relaxing the muscles and relieving tension. 

Legs-up-on-the-wall pose

How to do Legs-up-on-the-wall pose

  • Lie down with your buttocks close to a wall and legs falling to one side. Now slowly lift the legs up along the wall. Adjust your position to make sure you are as close to the wall as possible. Make sure you are comfortable.  
  • Now relax the throat and head. Keep the arms on the side of the body or above your head - whichever is comfortable for you. 
  • Stay here for a couple of minutes. Try to take slow, deep breaths. 
  • To come out of the posture, slowly drop the legs to one side and push yourself away from the wall.

Remember that your yoga practice should adapt to your body's needs each day, avoiding any poses that cause discomfort. Let your breath guide your movements with gentle fluidity, respecting your body's limits without pushing too far. If you're new to yoga, consider attending live yoga classes online, focusing on styles like Hatha, yin, or restorative yoga for neck pain relief. Approach your practice with kindness and patience, aiming for consistency rather than intensity, and maintain awareness of your posture beyond the mat. Prioritize even a brief daily practice to nurture your well-being and promote healing.

A few days of live yoga classes on Shvasa will help you develop a balanced routine that includes neck stretches, alleviating pain and stress. Join now. 

Can yoga help with neck pain?
Yes, you can practice many different yoga poses to relieve neck pain and a stiff neck.
How does yoga help with neck pain?
Incorporating yoga into your routine can alleviate neck pain by targeting tension and promoting flexibility. Research has shown that consistent yoga practice not only eases existing pain but also enhances overall functionality. By engaging in specific yoga poses designed to release neck tension and improve posture, you can experience significant relief, potentially transforming chronic discomfort into lasting comfort and mobility.
What are the best yoga poses for neck pain?
Practice cat-cow pose, cow-face pose, thread-the-needle pose, half lord of the fishes pose, warrior 2, and legs-up-on-the-wall pose to relieve neck pain and stiffness.
6 Yoga Poses to Release a Stiff Neck
Arunima Singhdeo

Arunima is the Founder & CEO of Shvasa. She was the cofounder and COO of which raised approx $20mn in funding from Accel Partners and Tiger Global, which was later acquired by The Mahindra Group. She was also a Vice President at Infoedge India - a successfully listed Internet company. Arunima is a Master Yoga & Meditation teacher with over 2000 hrs of practice and 1000 hrs of teaching Yoga. Her two passions are yoga and the internet.

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