Yoga for a Tight Neck, Shoulder and Back Muscles

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Waking up in the morning with a stiff neck or back is the worst! Sleeping is supposed to restore the body but there are some mornings when I wake up and feel like I’ve aged 10 years overnight.

For all the people out there who feel my pain in some way, this post is for YOU!

Some of this is due to my activity level (I’m super active) but the other is the bed. Now, I’ve been making huge strides in the last 8 years to be more aware of toxins. I’ve changed so many things like better food choices, making the change to organic and non-toxic products like switching from bleach to vinegar and water, etc.

There are other switches that are not so easy, like pillows and mattresses. I’ve been through three different natural and organic pillows in the last couple years (I’ve kept them for extra and guest pillows of course). Each one started out feeling okay but the longer I used them, the more uncomfortable they become. The same is true with my organic and natural mattress. It was alright for the first year and now after 5 years, there are grooves where my husband and I sleep and with a toddler who sleeps in the bed a lot it makes everything in my body uncomfortable. I wake up most days with a tight neck, sore back and hips. Tight neck, shoulder and back muscles sure make moving hard. Especially when I’m chasing around a three year old all day!

Getting a new mattress and pillow seem easy but cost effective and earth friendly, it’s not so great. Therefore I’ve had to find other ways to relieve the pain. Doing self massage on the sore areas and soaking in an epsom salt bath can help.

The most effective solution (for me) is doing a series of yoga poses. By picking at least one yoga pose for each sore area and holding the pose for 30 or more seconds helps release the tension. It even helps combat tension headache before they start.

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Below you will find a sequence that is sure to relieve some of your neck, shoulder and back tightness. It will even help relieve stress and can relax the body from a hard day. Pick one or do all the poses targeting each area that are causing some pain or soreness. Hold each pose for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before moving on or carrying on with the rest of your day.

Yoga for a Tight Neck, Shoulder and Back Muscles

Tight Neck:


Sukhasana (easy pose) head tilts: Sit with legs crossed (or extend legs out in front with a slight bend in the knees) and sitting bones working evenly into the earth. Inhale extend out through the crown of the head. On an exhale, bring the left year toward the left shoulder. Keep the shoulders softened. Hold for 30-120 seconds. Start to rotate the chin down toward the left collarbone. Hold. Continue to rotate the chin down toward the chest and hold. Keep the shoulders soft. Gently rotate the chin toward the right collarbone and hold. Tile the right ear toward the right shoulder and hold. Gently bring the head back to the center.


Bharadvaja's Twist: Start in half virasana (half hero pose-kneeling with bum toward or on the earth or a block) with the right foot to the side of the right hip and left leg extended out in front. Bend the left knee and place the top of the left foot to rest on top of the right knee or in the right hip crease. **Alternatively you can place the left outer edge of the foot on the floor in front so the sole of the left foot is gently touching the side of the right inner knee.. Inhale and extend out through the crown of the head. Exhale twist to the left bringing the right hand to the outside of the left knee and the left hand to the earth behind the left hip. Hold the twist for as long as it feels right. Inhale bringing the head back to the center and exhale unwinding the body. Repeat the steps on the second side.


Anahatasana (extended puppy or melting heart pose): Come into a hands and knees position. Keep the hips above the knees and walk the hands a foot or so in front of the shoulders. Gently melt the chest down toward the mat, bringing the forehead to rest on the earth or a block.

Tight Shoulders:


Standing (or laying) Shoulder Stretch: Stand with chest facing the wall. Inhale and extend the right arm out, turning the palm to rest on the wall. Exhale and gently turn the feet and hips to the left. Only go as far as it feels like a stretch and not painful. **Alternatively you can try lying on your belly with the forehead down. Extend the right arm out to the side placing the palm on the floor and bending the left elbow placing the palm under the left shoulder. Inhale and on the exhale press into the left hand to gently roll onto your right side.


Anahatasana (extended puppy or melting heart pose): Come into a hands and knees position. Keep the hips above the knees and walk the hands a foot or so in front of the shoulders. Gently melt the chest down toward the mat, bringing the forehead to rest on the earth or a block.


Prasarita Padottanasana I (Wide Legged forward fold with arms reaching up behind): Stand with feet wide and parallel. Put a slight bend in the knees and extend out through the crown of the head. Reach the hands behind the pelvis, interlacing the fingers. Inhale extending the elbows and reach the chest upward. Stay here or fold forward bring the crown of the head toward the earth. Keep as much bend in the knees as needed.

eagle arms- tight shoulders and back

Garudasana Arms (eagle arms): Come to either a seated or kneeling position, extending out through the crown of the head (sit up tall). Inhale reaching the arms out to the sides. Exhale bring the arms out in front of the body, crossing the right arm under the left arm. Bend the elbows to bring the backs of the hands and forearms to touch. Stay here or continue to wrap the arms bringing the palms to touch. Lift the elbows up and try to get them in the same line as the shoulders. **Alternatively you can gently rest the elbows on the chest, releasing through the head and neck. Hold 30-90 seconds before switching sides.

Tight Back (upper and lower):


Dolphin Pose: Come to hands and knees. On an exhale, bend the elbows and place them under the shoulders. Inhale and extend the legs back toward the back end of the mat (forearm plank). Inhale and gently step the feet toward the elbows working the hips and tailbone up. Press the palms, forearms and elbows into the earth. Try to straighten the legs as much as you can while gazing toward the feet.


Marjaryasana (cat pose): In tabletop pose (hands and knees) make sure palms are under the shoulders and knees are under the hips. Inhale gently pulling the bellybutton toward the spine. Exhale bringing your chin toward your chest and arch the back. Reach the upper spine toward the sky. Inhale come back to tabletop. Continue to move slowly from tabletop to cat pose for as many rounds as you like.


Setu Bandha Sarvangasana Variation (supported bridge pose): Grab a block and lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the earth. Inhale and press into the feet to lift the hips up. Place a block on the lowest or medium level under the hips. Exhale releasing the hips down onto the block. Release the arms to the sides or to the belly. With each exhale allow the hips to feel heavy. Stay as long as you like. **Alternatively if this causes low back pain, try keeping the hips on the floor and walking the feet out to the sides as wide as your mat. Bring the knees together, coming into constructive rest pose.

Enjoy and please let me know how it goes in the comments below!



Disclaimer: The information on this website (Alt Yoga Vibe) is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical treatment or hands on instruction.  If you are experiencing any severe pain or symptoms, please consult a healthcare practitioner.

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