10 Poses of Yoga for Shoulder Pain and Neck Pain Relief

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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 28 September 2023| min read
10 Poses of Yoga for Shoulder Pain and Neck Pain Relief

Quick Summary

  • Neck and shoulder pain are common problems that primarily initiate with an improper sitting posture for long hours in front of the screen.
  • The pain is usually sensed like a locking stance that impedes the movement of the neck or could even be felt like a chronic pain disrupting everyday life.
  • Yoga for neck and shoulder pain is ideal for enhancing muscles and restoring motion and distress.

A technology-driven world calls for a dormant lifestyle and, thus, many problems in the body. Neck and shoulder pain are common problems that primarily initiate with an improper sitting posture for long hours in front of the screen. 

The pain is usually sensed like a locking stance that impedes the movement of the neck or could even be felt like a chronic pain disrupting everyday life. Other reasons for neck and shoulders being affected are over-stretching or an injury during sports. The affected soft tissues of the neck and shoulder demand mild stretching and strengthening to neutralise the pain.

Yoga for neck and shoulder pain is ideal for enhancing muscles and restoring motion and distress. Some target stretches should be practised if one is looking to relieve pain in the neck and shoulders.

Role of Yoga in Neck and Shoulder Pain

A yoga routine clears the tension in the muscles. Yoga poses are basic stretches that help reduce pain and improve mobility. There are different ways in which yoga works to relieve neck and shoulder pain. 
  1. It involves deep breathing, which increases the oxygen in the body that regulates the blood supply.
  2. These poses are great at offering rigorous postures to the body, which builds core strength and improves the flexibility of muscles.

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Benefits of Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Yoga offers various benefits to physical and mental health. Also, it is found to be beneficial in reducing pain in the neck and shoulders. Some of its essential benefits are: 
  1. The yoga poses are slow, unlike other strenuous exercises that might make one restless. 
  2. The poses are easy and have no age limit (for most of the poses, a few are exceptions). 
  3. Yoga is a safe and effective method, as there are no reported incidences of injury while performing these poses. 
  4. Back and neck therapies or medications are usually expensive and could have adverse effects too. Contrary to this, practising yoga poses are economical.

Yoga Poses for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Yoga for neck and shoulder pain consists of many beneficial poses. The top ten poses are:

Thread the Needle 

Thread the needle is excellent yoga for shoulders. It is a simple stretching movement that imparts strength to the shoulders. Pain or tightness in the shoulders, chest and upper back could be relieved effectively. 
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Get down on your hands and knees.
  2. Move the right arm forwards such that it touches the ground.
  3. Move the left hand below and between the right arm and the right knee.
  4. Stretch the arms and upper body, assuming the arm is a thread to an imaginary needle. 
  5. Hold the pose for 30 seconds for the best results. 
  6. It would be better to support the shoulders with a cushion or a cotton roll to protect the neck while stretching. 
  7. Avoid this pose if suffering from severe back pain, arthritis, spondylitis, or any other condition that affects breathing or causes severe muscle pain.

Sphinx Pose

Sphinx pose is one of the shoulder-opening yoga poses that work prominently on the spine, running right from the neck down to the tailbone. It is highly responsible for strengthening the shoulders and relieving pain. It is because the primary muscles involved in these stretches are the shoulders and arms. 
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Start by lying on your stomach.
  2. Keep the ankles at the width of the hips.
  3. With slightly wider hands than shoulder width, push the upper body against the floor.
  4. Look forward and hold the pose. 
  5. Keep the gaze straight ahead to ensure the spine is extended and stretched within limits.  
  6. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat it 2 to 3 times.   

Cat-Cow Pose 

A good yoga routine for neck and shoulder pain always includes the cat-cow pose. The cat-cow pose opens the chest, targeting the muscles in the shoulders and neck, stretching out sufficiently. Further, it helps release the neck's tension by extending and stretching the muscles.
The potency of this pose is wide to not only help with the neck and shoulders but also strengthen the abdominal muscles. 
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Lie down on your knees and hands. 
  2. Place the knees below the hips and hands below the shoulder with shoulder width apart. 
  3. Start by arching the back and extending the neck. Try to look up at the ceiling while maintaining this pose. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds and inhale while doing so. It is the cat pose.
  4. Release the arched-back posture by rounding the spine and looking down at your legs. It is the cow pose.
  5. Perform this exercise 10 to 12 times.
  6. Avoid doing this exercise if suffering from knee or wrist injury.

Rest with Knee to Chest  

This yoga pose for shoulder pain allows an individual to reset the spine and release tension. Another name for this pose is Supta Pavanamuktasana, meaning wind relieving or removing pose, which suggests that this pose helps release gas by acting on the digestive system. 
This pose stretches arms, shoulders, and abdomen. Further, studies suggest that this pose is one of those asanas that considerably reduces spine pain, particularly in the neck and back area.
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Lie on the back.
  2. Flex and pull the knees closer to the abdomen while maintaining a proper posture.
  3. Hold this position for about 15 seconds. 
  4. Perform it 2 to 3 times to see the best results.
  5. Women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy should avoid doing this exercise. Do not perform this exercise if you recently underwent abdominal surgery. Avoid this if suffering from a hernia.

Cow Face Pose 

The cow face pose is another effective shoulder-opening yoga pose that stretches the chest and shoulders.
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Sit on a comfortable chair properly and maintain the correct posture. 
  2. Bend the arms and raise the elbow such that the hands touch your back. 
  3. With the help of the right hand, pull the left hand to feel the stretch in the shoulders and arms. 
  4. Keep the spine upright. 
  5. Maintain this pose for about 30 seconds at least. 
  6. Switch to the other side.

Puppy Pose 

The puppy pose can be regarded as an ideal yoga for shoulder strength as it works explicitly on the muscles of the shoulders. Along with strengthening the shoulders, this pose stretches out the back, contributing to pain and stress relief in the upper body.
It's a kind of inversion pose that satisfactorily stretches the muscles in the back and shoulders; thus, it stands as a good yoga for shoulder pain.
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Try this exercise on a mat for better grip and stretch. 
  2. Start in a tabletop position with the knees and wrists placed directly beneath the hips and shoulders. 
  3. Lower the arms until the elbows touch the mat. 
  4. Extend the arms, put your hands forward and lower the chest toward the floor. 
  5. Maintain straight knees under the hips and a shoulder-width distance between the hands. 
  6. Place the forehead down on the ground. 
  7. Stay in this position for a minute and take deep breaths.
  8. Lift the head and chest while walking the hands back into the tabletop.
  9. This pose engages the arms, buttocks, shoulders, and back while the neck relaxes. 

Corpse Pose

Practising this pose at the end of all the stretches is usually recommended. It is because the corpse pose or lying supine corpse pose is known for releasing the stress or tension of the workout and allowing the body to relax completely. It is also known as Supta Savasana, proven for loosening tight muscles and offering them great strength. 
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Lie on the back with arms resting alongside. 
  2. Keep the posture straight, as shown in the image and take deep breaths. 
  3. Remain in this pose for about 5 minutes, aligning the spine, neck, and head. 

Warrior ll Pose

Just like the name says, the Warrior ll pose leads to a war stance where one feels a good stretch in the chest and the shoulder areas. It could even be regarded as freeing the chest and shoulders with the barriers of the folds and pain. It is also called Virabhadrasana ll and is known to work on the neck and back region.
This pose is one of the most effective shoulder-opening yoga poses that open the chest and shoulders and offer immense strength. 
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Stand with the feet around 1 metre apart.
  2. Turn the right leg, including the foot, shin, knee, and thigh, outward 90 degrees. 
  3. Turn the left foot towards the right foot, as shown in the picture. 
  4. Then slowly twist the pelvis inward. 
  5. Sweep the arms out in front of you to chest level and then out to the sides. 
  6. As you spread your arms wide, widen your chest and upper back. 
  7. Maintaining a proper posture while working doing this stretch.
  8. Remain in this position for about 30 seconds before switching to the other side.  
  9. Avoid this exercise if suffering from diarrhoea or high blood pressure.

Mountain Pose 

Mountain pose or Tadasana is a standing yoga pose showing the benefits of eliminating spine problems such as neck and shoulder pain. Along with taking off the pain, the mountain pose helps improve flexibility, enhance strength, and work on the body's overall posture. 
For the ones questioning how to reduce shoulder fat through yoga? Mountain and extended triangle poses are the stretches that should be practised to reduce shoulder fat through yoga. 
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Stand straight with both feet together.
  2. Roll the shoulders along with the arms upwards. 
  3. Hold this pose for 10 seconds, and then bring them down.
  4. Inhale while lifting and exhale while bringing the shoulders down.
  5. Perform this exercise 10 to 15 times.
  6. Keep the distance of feet a little wider if pregnant. People with low blood pressure, vertigo or migraine must avoid this exercise.

Extended Triangle 

The extended triangle pose, or Utthita Trikonasana, is excellent for beginners trying yoga for shoulders. This pose works on the shoulders, resulting in the activation of muscles and strengthening the length of the spine. It works well on the nervous, muscular and skeletal structure of the body, imparting strength and flexibility to the neck and back area. 
Steps to perform this exercise:
  1. Stretch your body in a way that makes a triangular structure. 
  2. Hold this pose for about 30 seconds and then perform it on the other side. 
  3. Do this five times to get relief from shoulder and neck pain.
  4. Avoid this pose if suffering from an ankle injury. 

Things to Keep in Mind While Practicing Yoga Poses for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Practising yoga is beneficial to one's physical and mental self. However, there are several things to remember while trying poses for neck and shoulder pain. They are:
  1. Stabilising the neck is an essential aspect of the poses targeting the neck and back because a strong neck helps exclude the problems associated with shoulders, arms, and forearms. 
  2. One must know their threshold of bearing pain and not exceed it as it could lead to unfavourable conditions such as ligament tears or other injuries. 
  3. In situations where the pain is intolerable, it's better not to try these poses.

Lifestyle Changes for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Trying a few yoga poses alone might not be entirely responsible for taking off the neck and shoulder pain. Also, there are other lifestyle changes required to help one manage the discomfort in a better way. These include:
  1. Maintaining a good posture throughout the day while doing various routine activities. 
  2. Staying hydrated throughout the day to maintain proper blood circulation. 
  3. Avoid movements that put more pressure on the neck and could jerk the shoulder. 
  4. Getting a sound sleep on a comfortable bed, keeping the neck in the proper place. 
  5. Holding mobile phones properly.

Takeaway

Resolving bodily discomforts with Yoga is a traditional method backed by scientific evidence. Trying yoga for neck and shoulder pain is beneficial to a great extent, i.e. one can even notice the pain vanishing. 

However, it would be in no way an ideal observational judgment to overlook the prolonged misery in the neck and shoulders, which stays unaffected even with yoga. Also, the neck and back area comprises delicate entities due to the proximity of the spine; hence long-term ignorance could be life-threatening. 

A smart move would be to see a medical practitioner when the pain is on the higher side. Also, one can even avail of a free consultation! HexaHealth is a reliable source for hunting the most promising healthcare services. We have the largest network of doctors and hospitals in India. So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with us right now!

Frequently Asked Questions

There is a huge variety in yoga for neck and shoulder pain. Some of them are mountain pose, knee to chest, extended triangle pose, cat-cow pose, extended puppy pose, warrior ll, and so on. 
 
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In most cases, with mild discomfort in the neck and shoulder, yoga poses are proven to be beneficial in relieving pain to a great extent. 
 
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There are numerous ways to treat neck and shoulder pain instantly; however, it's essential to know that the relief will be temporary. Some of them are 
  1. Application of ice pack or heat pad 
  2. Consuming over-the-counter medicines (painkillers) 
  3. Massaging with oil 
  4. Trying simple yoga poses
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You can try yoga for neck and shoulder pain to relax the muscles or release the tension in the neck and back area triggering the pain. 
 
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You can try shoulder-opening yoga poses such as the sphinx, extended triangle, warrior ll, and cow face. 
 
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A hot shower and a few simple yet effective yoga stretches could help release the tension in the neck and shoulders due to anxiety. One such yoga is the corpse pose which works well at letting go of anxiety physically and mentally.  
 
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There are quite a few reasons for the muscles in your neck and shoulder becoming tight; some of them are 
  1. Excess stress 
  2. Lack of sleep
  3. Overuse or underuse of the neck and shoulders 
  4. Resting in the same position for long hours.
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Most yoga poses work on the muscles in the back and can relieve the pain. To name some:
  1. Mountain pose 
  2. Extended triangle pose 
  3. Knee-to-chest pose 
  4. Warrior ll pose, and so on.
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Brahma mudra is an effective hand gesture for relieving neck pain. 
 
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Yes. Surya Namaskar could work well with neck pain management as it helps regulate blood circulation throughout the back area and strengthen the neck and back muscles. It is usually advised to begin yoga with Surya namaskar as a warm-up stretch. 
 
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Yoga poses that have a positive effect on the cervical spine are:
  1. Cat cow pose 
  2. Mountain pose 
  3. Cow face pose 
  4. Puppy pose, and so on.
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There are a few yoga for the shoulders and neck that should be avoided during injuries. They are
  1. Fish pose 
  2. Boat pose 
  3. Bow pose, and so on. 
However, it is always advised to consult a doctor in case of injury and avoid doing any yoga poses. It prevents injuries from turning fatal. 
 
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Any yoga pose that puts excess pressure or requires an enormous extension of the back muscles should be avoided if you are already in pain. Such asanas include shoulder stands, bridges, full wheels, etc. 
 
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Yoga for the shoulders is regarded as one of the best ways to loosen the tight muscles in the shoulder region. 
 
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Though the dolphin pose is great yoga for shoulder strength, it also works well on the overall muscles of the back, offering flexibility and strength throughout the length of the spine covering the hips. 
 
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Updated on : 28 September 2023

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.

Reviewer

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More

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