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8 Neck Stretches To Release Tension & Stress, From Our Favorite Trainers

June 20, 2022

Your body holds on to stress and tension in so many different ways. Some people house these feelings in their abdomen and deal with tummy troubles. Others may find that stress resides in the neck and shoulders, which can ultimately trickle down into the back, or even affect posture. While this is certainly uncomfortable, there are stretches you can do to release that buildup of tension and not only ease tricky knots but also create a calming effect on the rest of the body.

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Even sitting at a computer all day or constantly straining to look down at your phone screen may aggravate the neck, so building time into your day to stretch it out can provide some far-reaching benefits. Regularly practicing neck stretches will not only generally allow you to feel better in your body, but they may even minimize the strain you're feeling on other areas such as the back or shoulders.

If you'd like to make stretching your neck part of your well-being routine and are looking for a good place to start, we rounded up eight stretches to try, guided by our favorite trainers. Taking just a few minutes out of your day will help release the strain you're holding on to and make way for a more grounded and comfortable experience in your body.

1.

Neck Stretch

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Demonstrated by Emily Chen.

How-to:

  1. Start in a seated position on your mat.
  2. Bring your hands behind your neck.
  3. Gently pull your head forward, to give your neck a nice stretch.
  4. Come back to start, and allow your head to drop back, cradling your head in your hands.
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2.

Seated Cat-Cow

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Demonstrated by Juanina Kocher.

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How-to:

  1. Come to a seated position, crossing your legs in front of you. Place your hands gently on your knees.
  2. Inhale as you arch your back, bringing the chest forward and lifting the gaze.
  3. Exhale as you round your back, contracting the core and creating space in the spine.
  4. Repeat for at least a minute.
3.

Side-to-Side Stretch

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Demonstrated by Chen.

How-to:

  1. Start in a kneeling position.
  2. Place your arms behind your head and gently stretch your neck forward, bringing your chin to your chest.
  3. Hold this for 5 seconds, then release your left arm and bring your ear to your right shoulder.
  4. Gently apply pressure with your right hand, holding this stretch for another 5 seconds while breathing.
  5. Release your right hand and roll your neck to the other side, applying gentle pressure with your left hand and leaning your left ear against your shoulder.
  6. Hold for 5 seconds, and breathe deeply.
4.

Neck Rolls

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Demonstrated by Chen.

How-to:

  1. Start in a kneeling position, with a block underneath your seat.
  2. Lift your right arm, and place your hand over your left ear. Gently guide your head toward your hand. Draw your opposite arm toward the floor. Hold for a couple of breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
  3. Then, interlace fingers behind your head, and draw your elbows back. Allow your head to drop back, leaning into your hands. Hold for a couple of breaths.
  4. As you exhale, draw your elbows in toward your ears, and drop your head forward. Hold here for a couple of breaths.
  5. Then, combine the movements. Take your ear to the right side, through the middle, then to the left. Continue to create a semicircle with your head for a couple of breaths. Move to the next pose.
5.

Child's Pose Spinal Waves

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Demonstrated by Chen.

How-to:

  1. Start in a child's pose position, with your knees wide, your hips sitting back, arms stretching forward, and your torso resting over your thighs.
  2. Round your chin in toward your chest. Curl your tailbone under and roll forward into cat pose.
  3. Allow your shoulders to go slightly past your wrist; drop the belly down; draw the shoulder blades back into cow pose.
  4. Then draw your body all the way back into child's pose.
  5. Continue flowing in one fluid movement, through each phase, for 8 times total. Move on to the next pose.
6.

Locust Pose

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Demonstrated by Chen.

How-to:

  1. Start on the mat, lying on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you.
  2. With your hips pressing into the mat, point your toes and engage the legs, then lift up your feet slightly.
  3. As you lift your feet, simultaneously lift your arms up in front of you. Keep everything engaged.
  4. Hold here for 8 to 10 breaths, or as long as you need, then gently lower back down.
7.

Traditional Cat-Cow

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Demonstrated by Phyllicia Bonanno.

How-to:

  1. Come to tabletop with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees.
  2. Ground down through your palms.
  3. As you inhale, tilt your tailbone up, drop your belly, and lift your gaze slightly up without bunching the back of the neck. (This is the "cow" half.)
  4. As you exhale, tuck your tailbone, curl and round your spine, and bring your gaze toward your belly button. (This is the "cat" half.)
  5. Repeat for at least 3 breaths.
8.

Cobra Pose Spinal Waves

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Demonstrated by Chen.

How-to:

  1. Come down onto your mat, and lie on your stomach. Press the tops of the feet on the floor. Allow your hands to come out nice and wide, point your elbows up, prop yourself up onto your fingertips.
  2. Squeeze the glutes. Tuck your chin in toward your chest. Press your torso up off the ground in a fluid, wave-like motion, until your arms are straight.
  3. Then reverse the movement and slowly come back down onto the ground.
  4. Repeat for 8 rounds total. Continue to the next pose.
Merrell Readman
Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor

Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.