Before starting a yoga session in an office setting, I often ask my students if they have any special requests. One of the most popular responses I receive is for neck stretches.
Although the neck is a relatively small region compared to the rest of the body, stress can literally and figuratively be a pain in the neck!
When life gets busy and drama is high, we can all hold a lot of stress and tension in the neck, shoulders and back. Staring at computer screens and phones, slumping into poor posture at our desks and sleeping in awkward positions, can all contribute to tightness in the neck.
Fortunately though, a little bit of yoga can go a long way. These simple, yet effective stretches will create space in the neck, shoulders and back, and will hopefully soothe your state of mind too.
Hold each pose for a minimum of five breaths and observe how you feel overall after. You can perform these stretches while sitting, or even standing tall, beginning in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
Side Neck Stretch
Reach your left arm like outside your left hip, extending away from your body at about 45 degrees. Take your right hand to the left side of your head.
On your exhale, fold your right ear toward your right shoulder.
Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
This stretch will lengthen and soothe the side of your neck and shoulders (the sternocleidomastoid and trapezius muscles).
Interlace your fingers behind your head and fold your elbows forward, hugging the biceps toward the midline of your body.
On an exhale, tuck your chin toward your chest and hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
This stretch will lengthen and soothe the back of your neck (the levator scapulae muscle).
Upper Back Stretch
Fold your left arm behind you toward the right side of your lower back.
Lower your chin about halfway and place your right hand on the left side of your head.
Exhale and fold your left ear to the right shoulder. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
This stretch will lengthen and soothe both sides of your neck, your upper shoulders, chest, and the mid-upper back (the sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, pectorals, and rhomboids).
Cover Photo: Stocksy, Gallery courtesy of the author