Releasing Neck and Shoulder Tightness

beneyoga yoga therapy

One of the major causes of neck pain and shoulder tightness is bad posture. Everywhere around us we can see people bent over a mobile phone, laptop or book. I worry about the repercussions of this daily activity for most of us. Our head is very heavy and the weight carried by the neck increases the more the head is held forward. Also hunching the shoulders forward brings the neck out of its healthy alignment and tightens the shoulder and neck muscles. I’ve often written about this topic, and struggled with neck pain myself before paying more attention to my posture and neck muscles. While some of my other blogs address posture and emotional holding, this blog is concerned with practical ways of releasing neck and shoulder tightness. To feel more relaxed and free in the upper part of the body, practise these yoga movements every day.

A major cause of neck pain and shoulder tightness is our posture. Before trying to remedy pain or tightness in neck and shoulders, do have a look at your postural habits. I’ve written about a healthy alignment for our neck in this blog: If you would like specific help with your posture, which would not only include strengthening and releasing practices, but also address general wellbeing, this is my area of expertise! Don’t hesitate to book a free consultation to discuss how yoga therapy can help you.

When doing the stretches below, choose the number of repetitions that feels right for you, and don’t allow any movement to hurt. As you probably know by now, pain does not give you any gain!

Releasing neck tightness with three neck stretches:

1. In a sitting position, exhale and lower the right ear to the right shoulder. Inhale and bring the head back to the centre. Move the left ear to the left shoulder with the next exhalation and repeat in time with your breathing. You can hold each stretch for a few moments too, breathing into the stretch and feeling how the muscles may be a little more willing to ‘let go’ with every exhalation. Don’t stay too long in a stretch and be very gentle with these stretches.

beneyoga neck side stretch

2. Exhale and lower the chin towards the throat, tilting the head on the top vertebra and keeping the neck fairly straight. Inhale and bring the chin up without straining the neck or bringing the head back.

beneyoga neck therapy

3. Exhale and look over to the right; inhale and return the head to the centre; exhale and look over to the other side. It’s a simple movement; just breathe and enjoy the stretch.

beneyoga neck stretch

Releasing shoulder tightness

Sitting on a chair also works for all these shoulder exercises. The first one is not appropriate if you have back pain due to a herniated disc.

Kneeling arm Stretch

Clasp your hands behind you and move the body forward and the hands towards the ceiling. Inhale to come up and repeat.

beneyoga shoulders stretch

Shoulder lifts

Inhale and lift both shoulders, exhale and “drop” them both with a sigh. Repeat; it feels good to sigh and feel the heavy weight on your shoulders lighten a little!

beneyoga shoulder shrugs

Pectorals stretch

Clasp both hands and rest them behind your back, bend the elbows. Exhale and bring the elbows a bit closer together, inhale and return to the neutral position. Repeat a few times and then hold the stretch, up to 60 or 90 seconds.

beneyoga pectoral muscle stretch

Eagle arms

-start by wrapping your arms around you.
-bring your hands up so the back of the hands touch.
-if possible hook your hands around each other.
-with every exhalation, encourage the shoulders to relax down, the elbows to move up and hands away from the face.

beneyoga eagle arms

Rotating shoulders and arms

Place one hand on each shoulder and rotate the elbows in nice big circles and in both directions.

beneyoga shoulder circle

Lying shoulder and upper back movements:

A. Lying on the right side with the legs bent and quite close to the chest, place both arms straight in front of you with the palms touching. With an exhalation slide the top hand further away from you, keeping both arms straight. Inhale and return to the starting position. Make sure your head is relaxing down. If it can’t reach the mat then use a cushion under your head.

beneyoga shoulder slide

B. (not appropriate if you have pain due a herniated disc) From the same position and with both palms together, bring the top arm in a half circle along the floor to the other side. If you had the numbers of a clock around you, you would move your hand from 3 o’clock past 12 to 9 o’clock. It does not matter if your hand cannot stay on the floor. It usually doesn’t and we don’t want to hurt the shoulder joint by stretching it too much. After a few repetitions of the half circle, stay in the open-arm position for a few breaths, provided this movement doesn’t hurt.

beneyoga shoulder clock
beneyoga twist

Repeat both movements lying on your other side.

Hopefully, releasing neck and shoulder tightness in this way is enjoyable, and even restful at this time of the year.

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