Three Yoga Stretches To Ease Neck & Shoulder Tension
Whether you sit at a desk or are addicted to cross-fit, your shoulders will inevitably get tight, tense or sore. Often, they trigger tension in the neck and vice versa. Here are three stretches I love to do to loosen up my shoulders and arms, and relieve stress in my neck.
Garudasana :: Eagle Pose
Eagle arms stretches the outer shoulders and all around the shoulder blades. You can do it sitting or standing and can vary or intensify the stretch, and release tension in your neck simply by moving your head into different positions. Try looking right, left and down.
- Lift your arms to the sides at shoulder height.
- With straight arms, cross your right elbow over your left.
- Bend your elbows and hook your left fingers around your right palm or thumb. (If you can’t reach, hold a belt or a towel in your right hand and grab it with your left).
- Lift your elbows to shoulder height.
- Push your hands away from your face so your forearms are vertical.
- Hold for about a minute, then release, pause and repeat with your left arm on top.
Gomukhasana :: Cow Face Pose
The entire shoulder girdle gets stretched in gomukhasana. The bottom arm rotates internally, giving a release to the deep, internal stabilizers of the shoulders. The top arm, extended overhead, opens the armpit to stretch the triceps and the lat muscles. Cow Face arms can be done sitting or standing for more versatility.
- Reach your right arm high overhead.
- Bend your elbow and swing your hand down to the back of your neck.
- Sweep your left hand down and left, with your thumb down, and palm facing back.
- Bend your left elbow and climb the back of your hand up you spine.
- Clasp fingers or wrists, then sit/stand up straight.
- Draw your waistline and head back.
- Roll both outer shoulders back and lift your chest.
- Hold for about a minute, then slowly release, pause and practice on the other side.
Note: If you don’t make the clasp behind your back, hold a belt in your top hand, drop it down your back and grab the other end with your bottom hand.
Virabhadrasan 1 :: Warrior 1
While not a pose to practice at your desk, Warrior 1 does do great things for the neck and shoulders. The full form of the pose is a gigantic stretch for the front of the body, all the way from the back foot, up through the belly and out through the tips of the fingers. Vira 1 brings a lightness to the chest that lifts the torso up from within. While it may seem counterintuitive, this inner lift releases strain in the neck and shoulders by teaching the bigger muscles of the trunk to work instead.
- Step your left foot back about 5 feet behind your right foot.
- Turn your heel in—toes out about 30-45 degrees—enough that you can get it to the ground, but not so far that it turns your hips too far to the left.
- Raise your arms incredibly high overhead, so far that you can bring your hands palm-to-palm without bending your elbows. (Go as near to that as you can without hurting your neck; you’ll know you’re getting close when your biceps begin to press against your ears!)
- Squeeze your palms together and push them higher as you bend your right knee to a square.
- Pull back on your right hip, and steer your pelvis to face forward.
- Stretch your left leg straight and spread your toes wildly.
- Lift the entire circumference of your torso up dramatically, especially your back ribs and your sternum.
- Engage the muscles of your upper back to curl your head back (don’t just dump it back or collapse in your neck) and look up at your thumbs.
- Hold for thirty second to a minute, and breathe as deeply into your upper chest as possible.
- Come out slowly, pause for a few breaths, then practice with your left leg in the front.