Yoga For Stiff Neck: Ease Discomfort with These 6 Simple Poses

Too much time at your desk or looking at a screen has found it's counterweight in yoga!


With the amount of time that we spend nowadays hunched over in front of computers, driving, and looking down and scrolling on our phones, it is no wonder that neck stiffness is on the rise.

As someone who spends a considerable chunk of time seated, writing on my laptop, and also working with many folks who struggle with the same, I am always looking for new ways to bring yoga for stiff neck poses and exercises into the practice.

In this article, we will be exploring simple yet powerful poses specifically designed to alleviate neck discomfort and we’ll also talk about:

Let’s dive in!

Understanding the main causes of stiff neck

A stiff neck can be attributed to a myriad of causes rooted in our daily habits and lifestyle.

Here are some of the main causes:

  • One primary culprit is poor posture, a consequence of long hours spent hunched over screens or slouched at desks. This misalignment strains the delicate muscles of the neck, leading to tension and discomfort.
  • Stress, another pervasive element of contemporary life, contributes significantly to neck stiffness. The body’s natural response to stress is muscle contraction, and when this tension becomes chronic, it settles prominently in the neck and shoulders.
  • Muscle strain from sudden movements or overexertion is a common trigger for a stiff neck, reminding us of the body’s intricate interconnectedness.
  • Sleeping in an awkward position or using an unsupportive pillow can also wreak havoc on neck muscles, leaving us with stiffness upon waking.
  • Beyond these daily stressors, underlying health issues or injuries can exacerbate neck discomfort.

Understanding the many reasons why you could have a stiff neck, can help you seek the right exercises to find relief, but also help you consider lifestyle changes that could also lead to long-term relief.

By addressing the root causes through practices such as yoga for stiff neck and ergonomic adjustments, we can reclaim harmony in the often-overlooked region of our bodies that bridges the head and heart.

a woman doing a yoga neck stretch in front of a blue watercolour circle

The Role of yoga in alleviating neck Discomfort

When dealing with neck and shoulder pain and stiffness, yoga can be of great aid.

Yoga for stiff neck intends to provide you with tools that you can use to alleviate the current discomfort as well as strengthen the muscles of your neck and shoulders to prevent new stress and tightness from developing in the area.

At its core, yoga promotes mobility and flexibility, enhancing the range of motion in your neck and shoulders.

The deliberate and mindful movements foster an increased awareness of the body, allowing practitioners to identify and release tension that may contribute to neck discomfort.

Beyond the physical realm, yoga delves into the mental and emotional aspects of your being.

Stress, a pervasive contributor to neck stiffness, can be eased with calming breathwork and the meditative elements of yoga.

The practice encourages relaxation and mindfulness, creating a serene space where your mind can unwind, and tension, physical and mental, can begin to dissipate.

Yoga also stimulates blood circulation, delivering essential nutrients to your muscles and aiding in the removal of toxins from your body.

This improved circulation contributes to the overall health of the neck muscles, reducing inflammation and promoting quicker recovery from strain.

In embracing yoga as a part of your treatment for neck discomfort, you not only address the immediate physical symptoms but also cultivate more self-awareness about how you feel, learning to take better care of yourself and your neck.

a woman doing a yoga neck stretch in a pink living room wearing pink yoga clothes

Precautions Before Starting Yoga for Stiff Neck

Before starting yoga for a stiff neck, consulting with a healthcare professional, especially for chronic conditions, ensures that you can choose a yoga practice or style that aligns with your individual needs.

For beginners, understanding personal physical limits and adapting the practice with variations, props, and modifications prevents overexertion as well as further injury.

When dealing with neck stiffness, it is important to emphasize proper form and alignment in each pose is paramount to prevent unintended strain. Working with a yoga teacher can ease the path!

If you have specific health concerns, such as spinal issues, you should seek guidance from a qualified yoga instructor to tailor the practice to your unique requirements.

Prioritizing these precautions creates a foundation for a safe and effective yoga experience, getting the neck pain relief that you’ve been seeking, and with minimal risk.

Yoga for stiff neck: 6 best poses for relief

Many yoga poses can alleviate stiffness and neck pain, and we want to share some of the most accessible ones with you:

1# Lateral Neck Tilts

When first getting started with yoga for stiff neck poses, begin with simple neck tilts.

Take a seat on a meditation cushion or a chair, and take a moment to lengthen your spine. Inhale, and lengthen through your neck even more, and as you exhale, take your left ear toward the left shoulder.

Take a few breaths there, noticing the stretch through the right side of the neck and down toward the shoulder.

Come back through the center, and then switch sides.

Slow, controlled lateral movements of the neck help improve flexibility and release tension.

Incorporating deep, mindful breaths enhances the relaxation effect, promoting a sense of calm.

2# Cervical Flexion and Extension

Just like we did in the last yoga for stiff neck pose, to practice this asana, find a seated position, lengthen your spine, and take a few moments to center.

Now, as you inhale, lift your chin as little or as much as you want, opening through the front of your neck, and as you exhale, tilt your chin down, opening through the back of the neck.

Keep this movement going for a while, breathing steadily and with intention.

These stretches are effective for people who spend long hours at desks.

3# Cat cow pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing cat cow pose

The Cat-Cow Stretch is beneficial for a stiff neck due to its dynamic spine articulation.

As you flow between arching (Cow Pose) and rounding (Cat Pose), the neck follows suit, engaging and releasing tension in a controlled manner.

This gentle, rhythmic motion serves as an effective warm-up, promoting spinal flexibility and improved posture.

The mindful coordination of breath enhances the mind-body connection, while the calming effect on the nervous system aids in stress reduction.

Incorporating Cat-Cow into your routine provides a holistic approach to alleviating a stiff neck by addressing both physical and mental aspects of discomfort.

4# Eagle Arms

A great yoga for stiff neck stretch that you can also do from a seated position, or even lying down on your back, is eagle arms.

Eagle Arms provide a deep stretch across the upper back and shoulders, easing tension that often contributes to a stiff neck.

For a more accessible practice, consider these modifications:

Partial Wrap: If bringing the palms together is challenging, allow the backs of the hands to touch or hold onto opposite shoulders.

5# Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)

an annotated image of a man doing thread the needle pose

This asana alleviates neck stiffness by stretching the shoulders and upper back.

The gentle twist opens the upper body, releasing tension between the shoulder blades and enhancing flexibility.

This pose improves the range of motion in your neck and shoulders, combating everyday stiffness.

Begin in a tabletop position, inhale lift your right arm out and up, and with the exhale, thread it under the opposite arm, creating a gentle twist, and taking your right shoulder down toward a block or the floor.

Hold the stretch, focusing on your breath and observing the sensations that arise.

Repeat on both sides for a balanced and effective release of neck stiffness.

6# Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

annotated image of a woman doing yoga's standing forward bend pose

A wonderful posture to release tension on your neck is standing forward bend.

From a standing position, start to hinge at your hips, soften your knees, and slowly let your upper body relax over your thighs.

Allow your arms to rest on your legs, a pair of blocks, or maybe you let your hands reach toward the floor.

Stay here letting yourself dangle a bit, and allowing your head to hang freely.

This yoga for stiff neck pose provides a gentle stretch to the entire spine, including the neck, and can help release tension.

A yoga for stiff neck sequence

If you’d like to practice some of the yoga for stiff neck postures that we have explored in this article, here is a free YouTube yoga class for you, focused on helping you release neck and shoulder tension:

To Close

Whether you find that your neck gets stiff occasionally, after a few hours on the computer, or it feels like the discomfort is chronic, incorporating yoga for stiff neck stretches can be a first step to finding relief.

We encourage you to find professional guidance and always listen to yourself first.

To dive deeper into yoga practices for the neck and shoulders, read this article next:

Photo of author
Laia is an Afro-Catalan accessible and inclusive yoga & meditation teacher. She has trained in hatha, vinyasa, trauma-informed yoga, yin yoga, and restorative yoga and holds E-RYT 500 and YACEP accreditations with the Yoga Alliance. Additionally, she is a freelance writer and translator, publishing in Catalan, English, and Spanish. As a former professional athlete who lives with a chronic illness, Laia has gained valuable insights into the benefits of self-care and the importance of pausing and slowing down. She is dedicated to sharing accessible and sustainable practices of yoga and meditation to help people create a more harmonious life. Being a black and chronically ill individual, her mission is to empower non-normative yoga teachers to find their unique voices and develop tools to make wellness practices accessible to the communities they serve, thereby taking up space and creating a more inclusive and diverse yoga industry. Furthermore, as a writer and creative, she is passionate about supporting other creatives and innovators. She fosters a genuine community dedicated to finding balance while staying productive and inspired. Laia has developed unique techniques that intertwine yoga and meditation with writing, journaling, and other accessible methods to help each other stay creative and mindful.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.