In an age when most people spend a good chunk of their week hunched over a screen, neck
and back issues are becoming some of the most common ailments that people deal with. While
preventative measures like better desk setups are the best approach, there’s only so much that
can be done.
Luckily, yoga brings a host of new solutions to the modern physiological problems. Here are the
10 best poses for tackling shoulder and neck pain that you can do every day to alleviate any
1. Ear to Shoulder/Neck Rolls
Probably the most popular/well known stretch for relieving neck tension, the yoga equivalent
takes it a little bit further. Sit upright and relax your shoulders, and push your chin against your
chest to straighten your spine. Next, gently roll your head to the right or left until your ear
touches your shoulder - use one hand to push your head, and the other to slowly push your
opposite shoulder in the other direction.
This is an extremely delicate stretch that doesn't require a serious amount of pressure - the
opposing stressors and the sensitivity of neck and shoulders muscles will make you feel it right
2. Seated Forward Bend
For the seated forward bend pose, sit upright with your legs aligned exactly straight. Take a
deep breath inwards and fold forward, trying to cup your heels - make sure your chest touches
your knees, or comes as close as possible. Now, here’s the important part - tuck your chin
inwards while rolling forward, and hold that stretch, while slowly pulling your shoulders in.
Count slowly to 5, exhale, and pull back out. This is a great pose because it’s intended to align
your neck with the forward, natural motion of your upright spine.
3. Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
Another classic stretch, this pose is wonderful for releasing tension in your shoulder muscles--
especially when a yoga breathing pattern is incorporated. Muscle tension in the deltoids and
triceps are a common reason for your shoulders/trapezius clenching together, and this pose
can aid in releasing the entire system.
As always, start off in a comfortable upright seated position, and gently pull your arm across
your body until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Hold this stretch for at least 3 breaths (inhale
and exhale), then release, and switch to the other shoulder. This is an easy pose to do anytime
during the day (vs just during a Yoga session), since you can do it from almost anywhere and it
brings near instant relief.
4. Warrior II Pose
This is a fantastic pose that’s primarily focused on releasing your chest and shoulders, which
then indirectly forces your neck upright - 3 birds with one stone! (Or a slightly more morbid, less
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 (thereby stretching your back foot). 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, then flip.
5. Two-Footed Pose
This is one of those rare poses that does a great job at addressing two completely separate
musculoskeletal regions. First lie on your back with your arms extended on your side, palms
down, and keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Then slowly inhale and raise
your butt off the floor, keeping your feet and palms where they are. It's important to keep your
chin tucked into your chest this entire time and not move your head at all during the movement.
Hold the post for 3 or 4 breaths and then exhale downwards.
This is a fantastic pose, not only for neck alignment and shoulder release, but also for your
pelvic area and can be a great core strengthening workout.
6. Cat/Cow Stretch
Not the most flattering stretch (either in name or in movement), but this pose directly targets and
stretches both your neck and shoulder muscles. Start in tabletop position with your back arched
and look up at the ceiling (cow position) - then, slowly, round your back and shoulders forward
and lower your chin until its nearly touching your chest (cat position). Alternate on inhale/exhale
for at least 8 breaths.
7. Standing Forward Bend Pose
This is one of the most foundational yoga poses you'll see in any beginner yoga class--and for
good reason. It’s a wonderful way to correct rounded shoulders and generally release neck and
Start off standing at an upright position, with your feet aligned facing forward. Tuck your chin to
your chest and slowly roll downwards, gradually moving lower until your hands touch your feet -
hold that stretch and slowly exhale.
Gradually come back up and repeat - its important that the rolling motion to the floor happens
gradually, attuned to your breath, and your chin is tucked in at all times.
8. Hand Clasp Behind Back
Another beginner pose, this is extremely good for people with tight shoulders or any kind of pain
in the shoulder blades. Simply put, you stand upright and interlock your hands behind your
back, then straighten your arms as far as you can while gripping tight. For an extra stretch to
your neck while doing this, tuck your chin into your chest as hard as you can.
You can adjust this pose depending on the severity of the tension on your shoulders by simply
gripping harder or softer.
9. Melting Heart Posture
This is an advanced pose that might be difficult for people who are still building up their
flexibility. If you can hit it, though, it delivers a remarkable stretch to your entire neck, shoulder &
upper back and is simply fantastic at releasing soreness and tightness.
Simply put, you stretch forward on all fours as far as possible while keeping your legs in a 45
degree angle at the knees, and create as much of a curve in your back as possible. This is
entirely a comfort game - the more of a stretch you can safely do, the better it is for you.
10. Sphinx Pose
Another classic, the Sphinx pose is a good alternative to the melting heart for beginners. Simply
lie down flat on your stomach with your palms facing down, shoulders on a 45 degree angle.
Keep your legs entirely flat, then slowly raise your head and lift your upper torso as high as you
can - this stretches out your entire back, and the further up you go the more your neck is
stretched out as well. Once you're looking straight ahead, hold the post for a minute or 2 (or as
long as you can).
Consider complimenting this with the cat/cow pose to make sure you aren’t adding tension to
your neck by only moving it a single direction.
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