According to recent estimates, somewhere around 10% adults are experiencing neck pain at any given time. (1) As much as 50% of adults report some sort of neck and shoulder pain in any given year. Unlike back pain, neck pain isn’t usually disabling.
The neck is an extension of the upper part of the spine. Running from the base of the skull to the top of the shoulder region, this area is known as the cervical spine. Through seven different vertebra (which house the spinal cord) and a series of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerve endings, the neck is unlike any other part of the body.
What Causes Neck Pain
Casual neck stretching may provide temporarily relief, but it is important to address the cause of the pain. The causes of neck pain are as varied as the symptoms and severity. Any of the aforementioned parts of the neck can be affected by injury, illness, stress, inactivity, or a combination of factors. Unfortunately, our increasingly sedentary lifestyles only contribute to more discomfort.
People who work in office jobs are much more likely than their active counterparts to report neck pain. Some other causes of neck pain include whiplash, bad posture, poor sleeping position, disc degeneration, nerve damage, arthritis, and more…
Using Yoga for Neck Pain
Turning to yoga for neck pain may not be the first option that comes to mind, but it is an extremely effective approach for most. Many of these yoga poses are designed to improve the strength and flexibility of the rest of your body, indirectly providing neck pain relief. Some are popular neck stretches that you may not associate with yoga, but do out of habit. Other movements are simple neck exercises that should improve strength and flexibility.
Yoga Poses for Neck Pain
These poses can be performed in sequence if desired.
*NOTE: There is a difference between discomfort and pain. If any of these poses cause additional pain, stop and do not attempt them until you receive clearance from a medical professional. Yoga will not work for every type of neck pain, depending on what is causing it.
1. Easy Pose
As the name would imply, this is an easy pose to start your yoga routine out with. Also known as Sukhasana, you can do this pose almost anywhere and anytime to quiet your mind and realign your spine.
- Sit on your mat cross-legged, palms comfortably in your lap.
- Sit up completely straight, extending your spine as much as possible.
- Take 12 deep breaths. On each inhale, breathe through your chest and diaphragm. With each exhale, try to draw your bellybutton towards your spine as you breathe out completely.
2. Thunderbolt Pose
Make sure you have a yoga mat or good padding beneath your knees before starting thethunderbolt pose, a.k.a. Vajrasana:
- Stand up straight on your knees. Move your left arm straight up and overhead, and your right arm comfortably behind your back so that the back of your hand is resting on your sacrum.
- Take a deep breath. As you exhale, bend forward and move your left arm behind your back. As you reach the mat, turn your head to the right and rest the left side of your head on the mat. Remember to keep most of your body weight on your knees and not your head.
- As you inhale, sweep your right arm out and up as you raise your body back to the starting position. You head should be facing forward by the time you are upright, with the back of your left hand on your sacrum.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Complete 4 rounds of this exercise, alternating arms and head movement each time.
3. Thread the Needle
This is a wonderful warm-up pose that can be done before yoga (or any exercise) to loosen up the cervical spine (neck).
- Begin in a tabletop position (on all fours) with your head and neck in a neutral position.
- Inhale as you extend your right arm upwards. On the exhale, bring your right arm down and through the space between your left arm and left knee, palm facing up.
- As you move down, turn your head to the left and rest your right ear on the mat.
- Hold this position for one minute, then repeat on your other side. Breathe deeply and keep your head and neck relaxed.