Neck pain is a drag. It drains your energy, leaves you vulnerable to muscle tweaks and headaches and stops you from doing the things that you love. Just sitting with poor posture can give you a pain in the neck but stack a sport on top of that and your days of effortless head-turning are numbered.
For cyclists, drawing the head forward for prolonged periods to look at the road ahead creates tension in the neck and upper back and compresses the cervical spine. For surfers, paddling into the waves with the neck raised and extended puts repetitive strain on the neck and shoulders. Swimming can cause similar problems. And sports like weightlifting and running, if practiced with poor posture and unreleased everyday tension, can aggravate pain and stiffness in this area.
Typically a triangle of tension develops from the jaw, to the neck, shoulders and upper back.
1. Neck and Shoulder Rolls
Roll your shoulders forward and back, and make half circles with your head 5 or 6 times each. Take these movements slowly and carefully—moving with your breath.
2. Seated Cat-Cow
This is a great spinal mobilization, especially for the thoracic region. Start with smaller movements and gradually increase your range from there. Keep your elbows out wide and make sure that your neck is supported. Inhale as you arch back and exhale as you round forward.
3. Upper Body Mobilizations
These movements loosen up the shoulders, spine, abs and obliques. You can do 3-5 of each on either side—moving with your breath. If you can’t sit comfortably with your legs crossed, it’s fine to stand or sit in a chair.
Side Neck Stretch
Drop your left ear to your left shoulder and place your left hand on the right-hand side of your head. Inhale, press up against your hand for 4 seconds. Exhale, relax into the stretch for 8 seconds. Repeat 2-4 times on each side.
You can look up to one side and press the back of your head into your hand and look down to one side and press up into your hand—moving the stretch to the different muscles in the side of your neck.
5. Back Neck Stretch
Drop your chin to your chest and interlace your fingers behind your head. Inhale, press your head up into your hands to activate the muscles in your upper back and neck for 4 seconds. Exhale, relax into the stretch for 8 seconds. Repeat 2-4 times.
You can repeat this stretch looking down and to the right, and down and to the left.
6. Hands-Under-Feet Pose
Bend your knees as much as you need to. Inhale, pull up on your feet for 4 seconds. Exhale, completely relax your neck and shoulders and hang your head for 8 seconds. Repeat 2-4 times.
We share this article with permission. This article originally appeared here on Yoga 15’s blog.