If you’ve got a stiff or sore neck, these extra-gentle yoga stretches can help bring you some relief.
Whether you’ve moved your head around too much, sat still for too long, or just slept on it wrong, neck pain can really put a damper in your day. When your neck gets too stiff, it can make it difficult to do everyday things, like drive a car or comfortably sit at a desk.
When neck pain strikes, follow this gentle sequence and say hello to a more flexible, mobile, and pain-free neck. Each of these postures is safe for beginners and can benefit even the most advanced yogi.
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To get the most out of this yoga sequence, be sure to take your time and breathe deeply into each stretch. Your breath is key for releasing tension from tight and stiff muscles.
Start by doing all 13 of these yoga stretches in one session, and take notes on which feel best for you. Feel free to select 2-3 of your favorites and use them regularly to prevent and relieve tension or stiffness in your neck.
All you need is a yoga mat, two yoga blocks and a towel to get started!
Quick Disclaimer: Not all neck stretches and yoga positions are safe for everyone. If you feel unsafe or unsure about any of these positions please consult a doctor who can assess your neck flexibility. Be very gentle and careful any time you are stretching your neck. Any pull, press or application of weight on your neck should be done in the most gentle and controlled manner possible. If in doubt, skip the pose and focus on the ones you can do safely and comfortably.
Yoga Stretches for Neck Pain
Child’s Pose with Arms Tucked | 3-5 breaths
- Kneel on all fours and sit back onto your heels.
- Lower your forehead down to the mat, keeping your chin tucked in.
- Lift your hips slightly to create room for your arms to slide between your thighs and calves.
- Sit back on your forearms while rounding out your upper spine.
- Lean forward to put a slight amount of pressure on your head, gently stretching your neck and shoulders.
- Hold for 3-5 deep breaths. Keep your chin tucked to intensify the stretch.
Child’s Pose with Elbows on Block | 5 breaths
- Keeping your legs in Child’s Pose, grab two yoga blocks and place them next to each other, lengthwise, about 4 inches in front of you.
- Rest your elbows on the blocks, place your palms together and let your hands rest on your upper back.
- Tuck your chin and allow your head to drop towards the ground in front of the blocks to elongate and stretch your neck. Hold for 5 deep breaths.
Child’s Pose Thread the Needle Twist | 3 breaths per side
- Start in Child’s Pose, with both arms stretched out long in front of you.
- Extend your right arm up towards the sky, then reach it underneath your left arm. You can prop up on your left fingertips, or you can walk your arm out in front of you for a deeper stretch.
- Relax your head on the ground and enjoy the stretch in your neck and shoulder.
- Hold for 3 deep breaths, then switch sides.
Supine Lying Chin Tuck with Towel | 3 breaths
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Roll up a towel or use a yoga strap and place it at the base of your skull, creating a cradle for your head. Slide your hands up about six inches on both sides.
- Lift the strap straight up to gently lengthen your neck and spine. Think of pulling the towel up rather than forward, keeping your chest open to allow for deep breathing.
- Press your shoulders towards the ground to intensify the stretch. Hold for 3 deep breaths.
Sphinx Pose Chin Tuck | 5 breaths
- Lie belly-down on the mat and prop yourself up with your elbows just below your shoulders, palms facing down.
- Tilt your chin down to lengthen your neck. Keep your shoulders down and back.
- Feel the stretch through the back and sides of your neck. Hold for 5 deep breaths.
Supported Plow | 3 breaths
- Lie on your back and lift your legs up to rock into a plow position.
- Touch your toes softly to the ground, or use blocks under your toes to make it easier. You may also bend your knees if this is too much of a stretch in your legs.
- Support your lower back with your hands, and keep looking straight ahead. Do not move your neck to look to the left or right!
- Press your shoulders down away from your ears and relax your neck. Hold for 3 deep breaths.
Angry Cat Stretch | 6-8 breaths
- Start in an all fours position.
- Press your palms down into the ground as you lift your spine up to round your back.
- Tuck your chin and look towards your belly button to stretch your neck.
- Shift forward so the weight is heavier on your palms than your knees. Lift your spine upwards and make space between your shoulder blades.
- Hold for 6-8 deep breaths.
Standing Forward Fold with Hands Behind Head | 3-5 breaths
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping a microbend in your knees, fold at the hips to bend down. Allow your upper body to relax as much as possible.
- Interlace your fingers and place your palms at the back of your head.
- Tuck your chin and gently press forward and down on the back of your head to stretch your neck. Bend your knees as much as you need.
- Hold for 3-5 deep breaths as you continue to gently stretch and elongate your neck.
Seated Neck Tilt | 3 breaths per side
- Sit in a comfortable, seated position.
- Place your fingertips down on the ground at your sides and roll your shoulders down and back.
- Lift your right arm and place your fingertips above your left ear to gently pull in the opposite direction of your extended arm.
- Gaze towards the sky to stretch the front of your neck, look straight ahead to stretch the sides of your neck, and shift your gaze down and to the right to stretch the back of your neck.
- Hold whichever angle feels best for three breaths, or alternate between them to stretch all sides of your neck. Switch sides.
Seated Chin Lift | 3 breaths
- Sit back on your heels or in any comfortable seated position.
- Make a fist with one hand, and then cover it with the other. Place your fists under your chin, keeping your spine straight and elbows shoulder-width apart.
- Relax and press your shoulders down as you tilt your head back and lift your elbows up towards the ceiling.
- Gently press into your chin to feel the stretch in the front of the neck and a gentle compression in the back of your neck. Hold for three deep breaths.
Rabbit Pose | 3-5 breaths
- Kneel with your knees shoulder-width apart, feet together and arms out long to get into Child’s Pose.
- Place the top of your head directly on the mat and as close to your knees as possible.
- Grab onto your heels and stretch your shoulder blades apart.
- Lift your hips and rock forward as much as you comfortably can.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths. Tuck your chin for a stronger neck stretch.
- Return to Child’s Pose and hold for a moment before rising back up.
Seated Eagle Arms | 5 breaths
- Sit in a kneeling or comfortable seated position.
- Lift your right arm up with your elbow bent in front of your chest.
- Loop your left arm underneath your right and wrap it around so your palms meet.
- Push your fingertips up and away from your face while keeping your shoulders down. Keep your neck back or in a neutral position.
- Hold for five deep breaths, then switch sides. Note: Usually one side will be more difficult than the other, but try to do both sides evenly.
Block Supported Savasana | 6 Breaths
- Sit on your mat and position two blocks on your mat, one to sit in the middle of your back and the other as a headrest. The head block can be in any position, but the back supporting block should be at a low or medium height only.
- Slowly lower down onto the blocks to get into a comfortable resting position.
- Start with your knees bent, then slowly straighten your legs if you can. Roll your shoulders back and let your arms fall by your sides, palms facing up
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and press your shoulders down towards the ground to lengthen your neck. Tuck your chin to feel a greater stretch in the back of your neck.
- Hold for six deep breaths.
(Your Next Workout: 9 Exercises to Release Neck and Shoulder Pain)