Take a Break, Use these Easy to Follow Yoga Exercises for Neck and Shoulder Tension

yoga exercises for neck and shoulder tension

Ever wake up in the morning feeling super tight in the your neck and shoulder area? It's such an uncomfortable feeling to have, and sometimes it can go on for hours, even messing with your daily functions.

How do you even develop these cramps? Maybe you're sleeping on a pillow that simply doesn't support your head and neck properly, or maybe the position in which you sleep causes alignment issues that just doesn't translate to a comfortable morning.

Whether you're on the move all day or staring in front of a computer screen, our neck and shoulders can take on a lot of wear and tear, feeling tired, stiff, and painful. Fact is, this is where a lot of people "carry their stress".

Neck pain is a very common ailment that effects many individuals on a daily basis. Unfortunately, if you're not structurally sound in this area it could potentially lead to other injuries and headaches, according to Healthline.

In fact, Practical Pain Management states that 20-70% of people will experience neck pain that interferes with normal daily functioning, during there lifetime. Lifetime prevalence of shoulder pain is also up to 70%.  Regardless how you look at the numbers, that's a good percentage of the population effected by these issues. 

Performing yoga maneuvers, stretches, and posture changes, may just offer some added support to help to keep our muscles loose, flexible, and feeling healthy more often then not. One of the great things about yoga exercises for neck and shoulder tension is that you can literally perform them anywhere without much thought, solely concentrating your energy towards relieving that tension.

Related Article: Office Break: Performing Yoga at Your Desk

What Does The Research Say?

By now, you know we like to look for past or current research when it comes to yoga, meditation and other forms of mind-body exercises when it comes to health and well-being. 

So what does research say about yoga and neck (and/or) shoulder pain?

Fact is, yoga is used to help alleviate many types of pain, not just neck and shoulder pain. How? Well, the basis behind yoga is mental, just as much as it is physical. It's not just about doing the exercises, it also incorporates breathing, meditation, as well as relaxation. This is important because sometimes it's that acute or chronic tension that we need to focus on to alleviate pain. 

stretches for neck and shoulder pain

A systematic review of randomized control trials was published in 2016, looking at the effects of yoga on chronic neck pain. Not only did the review conclude that yoga is a "safe and cost effective intervention", but specifically "neck pain intensity and functional disability levels" of the included trials was "significantly lower in the yoga groups" then the controls. 

Another analysis of studies, included eleven studies (8 random control trials). The studies looked specifically at patients with neck pain. The results for the most part were again very positive for yoga and neck pain. For example, yoga has a "positive effect on neck pain intensity, neck disability, QOL, cervical ROM and anxiety."

The study above did acknowledge the need for further investigation, stating that within the studies examined "different forms of yoga were used" and "varied durations"

A specific randomized control trial stated that in fact, yoga has been found effective in treatment of lower back pain. This particular trial investigated it's effect (lyenger yoga) on neck pain specifically as well. However just a preliminary trial, yoga appeared to be beneficial as treatment for chronic neck pain, as well as on psychological well-being. 

Related Article: All About Restorative Yoga: Postures & Sequences

Take a break from your regularly scheduled routines and perform these stretches, exercises and yoga postures, for a stiff neck and shoulders to help relieve some tensions.

Follow the video above or read up on some of the exercises you can do to, potentially, aide in your relief. 

As always, if unsure your can complete these poses, consult a professional. 

1. Assisted Neck Pull 

* (not necessarily a yoga pose, but this is a good stretch for tension)

This is an easy exercise you can do from practically anywhere; standing, or sitting on a yoga mat


1. Have your torso upright, placing both hands behind the back of your neck. Note, your elbows should be pointing outward towards either side of you, in alignment with your hands and the back of your neck.

2. Inhale.

3. Exhale, pulling your chin downwards toward your chest. At this point, your elbows will be tucked in tighter, no longer flaring out to the sides. 

4. Do not pull if you note pain in the neck area. 

5. Breath for a few cycles and then return your head to the starting point. 

2. Ear-drop stretch

* (not necessarily a yoga pose, but this is a good stretch for tension)

Just as easy of a stretch, is the Ear-drop. This is a fantastic stretch to loosen up your lateral neck-flexors.


1. Move your hands towards your back in a standing position. Interlock your fingers if able. Allow your shoulders to drop, removing tension from this area. 

2. Facing your head forward, simply drop your left ear towards the left shoulder in a controlled manner. Hold up for 5 seconds. 

3. Then, bring your head to central again, moving to the opposing side. 

4. Breath. 


3. Cat-Cow Pose (Bitilasana Marjaryasana)

A staple in manner yoga routines, Bitilasana Marjaryasana can help improve flexibility in your shoulders, spine, hips, and stretch your core. A beginner friendly pose, done in the prone-type position. The sequence is both a forward bend, & back bend type asana. 


1. Begin in a "table-top" position placing your weight on your hands and knees. Your hands should be located under your shoulders, knees under your hips.

2. Your toes should be curled under. Pressing into the mat, tilt your tailbone back, so your tailbone sticks upward. Reach the top of your head toward the ceiling (cow-pose). 

3. Continue to activate and keep the core tightened. 

4. Come back to the neutral table-top position. 

5. Exhale.

6. Place the tops of your feel against the mat at this time. 

7. Now, begin to move your spine towards the ceiling (arching your back) and drop your neck and shoulders down, looking towards your belly button. Your tailbone will be tucked at this time, no longer extending back/up. (Cat-pose)

8. Continue to activate your core. 

9. Breath 4-8 breathes.

10. Repeat

4. Simple Seated Shoulder Roll

* (not necessarily a specific yoga pose, but this is a good stretch for tension)

This exercise can be done from a seated or standing position. Focus on your posture with all of these maneuvers. This stretch can help open up your chest and allow you to focus on bettering your posture.


1. From a seated position, chest out, shoulders down & back, spine in straight alignment. Engage your core.

2. Start by raising your shoulders straight up, acting as if you are bringing them straight-up toward your ears. 

3. Now begin to pull your shoulders back, then down, using muscles in your mid back. 

4. As your shoulders begin forward, slightly round-out your upper back. 

5. Now that you are back to your neutral position, begin to shrug your shoulders straight-up once again.

6. This should be a nice controlled smooth motion. 

7. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 of these in a controlled fashion. 

5. Simple Side Rotation

* (not necessarily a yoga pose, but this is a good stretch for tension)

Another super easy exercise for neck and shoulder tension is this side rotation. The great thing about each and every one of these exercises is that you can go from one to the other quickly and easily, finishing a routine within only a few minutes time. 


1. Stand tall with your head mid-line to the body, and over-top your shoulders. 

2. Simply turn your head to the right, until you feel a stretch in both your neck and shoulders, hold this for 5-10 seconds, then return to mid-line position.

3. Do the same to the left side. 

4. Complete a set of 5-10 on each side.

Final Thoughts!

Whether you're doing simple stretches, like some of these we mentioned, or practicing daily yoga, these are all cost effective, safe ways to aid in relieving neck and shoulder pain.

There are many other yoga poses and generic stretches that can be done to alleviate and keep some of your tension as bay, we've just touched on few here. 

Practice these simple, but effective stretches and yoga exercises to help relieve neck and shoulder tension today!


- https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/patient/conditions/low-back-pain/about-back-spine-neck-shoulder-pain-statistics

- https://www.healthline.com/health/yoga-for-neck-pain

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4971133/

- https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/act.2020.29295.asi

- https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(12)00779-1/fulltext

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