8 Yoga Poses To Help Cervical Spine & Neck Issues

Written by Heidi Kristoffer

Photo by Christine Hewitt

It was brought to my attention a few weeks back by Mr. MindBodyGreen himself, Jason Wachob, that there is very little information on how yoga can relieve neck pain.

Having been in a horrible car accident that resulted in a straightened cervical spine, several herniations, and a few other lovely injuries, I can say without doubt that yoga has been the number one key to easing pain and even getting rid of herniations.

Not sure why there is such a lack of information out there. Hopefully this will start to reverse that trend.

Of course, I am not a doctor, but have spent a decade with chiropractors, acupuncturists, orthopedists, osteopaths, and spinal specialists, trying to find ways to alleviate the pain stemming from injuries in my cervical spine, so here are a few tips and tricks that I have learned along the way.

For pain relief at any time, here are some yoga poses that will free up all of the areas surrounding your neck, and let you feel more open and less tense:

8-Point Shoulder Opener

Photo by Vera Boykewich

Start lying on the ground on your back, reach your right arm out at a 90 degree angle from your body, palm facing up.

If you feel like you have even more space, allow your left hand to meet the right in a clasp and breathe there for as long as feels good.

Warning: this is a deep one, come out of the pose as slowly and mindfully as you come in!

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Shoulder Opener on Blocks

Photo by Vera Boykewich

Start kneeling. Place two blocks in front of you and place your elbows on the blocks.

Press your hands together in a prayer position, then release your head in between the blocks and reverse the prayer down your back.

Stay here for at least 10 deep breaths.

Cow Face Arms

Photo by Vera Boykewich

While kneeling, reach your right arm to the ceiling; bend your right elbow, and allow your right hand to fall between your shoulder blades. 

Take your left hand to your right elbow and allow the weight of the hand to deepen the shoulder opening (no pushing!). 

You can stay here for five deep breaths, leaning back slightly, or, if the clasp is easy for you, take your left arm down, bend the elbow, and reach your left hand up the center of your back, taking hold of the right hand. Stay here for five deep breaths, leaning back slightly into your arms and taking care that the right arm isn't putting any pressure on your neck.

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Standing Forward Fold With Shoulder Opener

Photo by Vera Boykewich

From standing, clasp your hands behind your sacrum, soften through your knees and forward fold. 

Breathe here for five to ten deep breaths.

Shoulder Opener At Wall

Photo by Vera Boykewich

Place your forearms on the wall parallel to one another below shoulder height, keeping your elbows shoulder-distance apart. 

Take a few steps back from the wall and allow your head to relax down between your arms. 

Breathe here for five deep breaths.

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Supported Fish Pose

Photo by Vera Boykewich

While sitting, place a medium-height block behind you vertically beneath where your shoulder blades will lay and place another block behind that one vertically to use as a pillow for your head. (Use lower blocks if this height doesn't feel great on your back.) 

Allow your body to gently rest on the blocks, adjusting their placement until you are comfortable, with arms resting on either side. 

Stay here for at least five deep breaths.

Thread The Needle

Photo by Vera Boykewich

From all fours, reach your right arm underneath your body, allowing your right shoulder and temple to release to the ground. Your left hand can stay where it is, or crawl a bit to the right over your head. 

Breathe here for 10 deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side.

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Seated Spinal Twist

Photo by Vera Boykewich

Sit with legs long in front of you. Bend right knee and place right foot outside of left knee. (You can keep left leg long or fold it in like a half-cross-legged seat.) 

Wrap left arm around right leg and place right hand on the ground behind sacrum. 

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Finally, Some Of The Easy Things To Fix!

Stop looking down at your phone while you walk! This action causes your neck to overstretch in a position that is not natural, and leads to pain.

Think about rolling your shoulders down and together on your back any time you can. Good posture allows the neck to be in its ideal, least taxing position.

Think about tucking your chin closer to your neck. Many of us jut our chin forward, as we are constantly looking and moving forward: another unnatural position for the neck that causes strain.

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