The 5 Best Yoga Moves for Neck Pain, According to Experts
Whether you've got a crick in your neck from sleeping on a new pillow or find yourself uncomfortable after too many hours spent staring down at your computer screen, neck pain affects countless adults at one point or another.
While chiropractic adjustments and topical treatments may provide some relief, there's yet another way to relieve that persistent pain and even reduce the risk of future flare-ups. According to experts, yoga is an excellent tool for neck pain relief—if you know which moves to practice.
Read on to discover which yoga poses can help you get rid of that nagging neck pain for good. And for more ways to get healthier fast, check out These Walking Workouts Burn Fat Fast, Trainer Says.
One of the first poses most people learn during their yoga practice, Warrior Two is a surprisingly effective neck pain reliever, according to certified Yin Yoga instructor Traci Weber, owner of WalkAbout Yoga LLC.
"From a standing position, bring one foot back and another foot forward in a slightly slanted V shape (align the heel of your back foot with your front foot). Then, slowly, lean into your front foot while bending that knee. While doing this, slowly lift both your arms and spread out your entire wingspan—one hand facing your front foot, the other towards your back. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side," Weber explains, noting that this releases your chest and shoulders and forces your neck into proper alignment, helping to alleviate pain.
Forward Fold with Neck Stretch
A forward bend with a little neck stretching added in can take years of pressure off your neck, alleviating pain fast.
Weber recommends starting this pose by placing your feet hip-distance apart and bending forward at the hips as far as your comfort level will take you, bending your knees if necessary.
"Relax the weight of your head and torso and let everything surrender downward with gravity. Interlace your fingers behind your neck and soften the weight of your arms toward the floor. Be cautious not to push or pull on your neck here –instead, simply allow the added weight of your arms to move you further into your release," then hold for a minute, Weber suggests. "This pose will lengthen the cervical spine and release any built-up tension in the neck and shoulders."
Your feline friend is onto something with those deep stretches—and emulating them may help get rid of that neck pain that's been troubling you.
Weber recommends starting on your hands and knees with your back arched, then looking upwards at the ceiling. "Then slowly round your back and shoulders forward and lower your chin until it's nearly touching your chest. Alternate on inhale/exhale for at least 8 breaths," Weber says.
"This pose directly targets and stretches both your neck and shoulder muscles. This pose also stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs, opens the chest, and helps you achieve slow and deep breaths," Weber explains.
Thread the Needle
Threading an actual needle? Difficult and tedious. Doing the "Thread the Needle" pose in yoga? Pain-relieving and glorious.
To begin, start on your hands and knees with your shoulders vertically aligned over your wrists and your hips vertically aligned above your knees, Weber recommends. "As you inhale, reach your right arm up toward the sky and open your chest toward the right. As you exhale, reach your right arm underneath your left shoulder, 'threading the needle' as you lower your right shoulder and right cheek to either the floor, a block, a bolster, or a blanket." Weber suggests holding this pose for up to 10 deep breaths and repeating on the opposite side.
"The shoulders pick up a lot of the slack left over from the neck, and because tech neck can misalign the body so severely, shoulder stretches are also essential to eliminate neck pain," she explains.
Related: Sign up for our newsletter for the latest health and fitness news!
Ear to Shoulder
Sometimes, a simple stretch is all it takes to help get rid of that persistent neck pain—and that's exactly what you'll get from Ear to Shoulder, a move that practically anyone can do.
While in a seated position, put your hands on your knees. "Sit upright, relax your shoulders, and lower your chin toward your chest to release tension in the back of your neck. Next, gently roll your head to the right so your ear reaches for your right shoulder. Place your left fingertip on the ground as you gently place your right hand on the side of your head. Do not apply pressure," says Weber, who recommends holding this for ten slow breaths before repeating on the other side.
"You'll immediately feel the muscles in your neck stretch," says Weber. "The combination of breathing and stretching the neck muscles will alleviate pain."
For more Mind + Body news and tips, check out:
- Walking Mistakes That Are Killing Your Knees, Experts Say
- The #1 Best Exercise for Leg Pain, Says Science
- The Worst Foods for Joint Pain After 50, Say Dietitians