yoga poses for neck and shoulder tension

Six Yoga Poses For Neck and Shoulder Tension

This series of restorative yoga poses are great for neck and shoulder tension. Each posture is broken down with instruction for helping you get the most out of the benefits they offer. If tension is something that you struggle with regularly, learning just a few of these poses and practicing them a little every day will help tremendously to relax the muscles and relieve stress.

Find which postures work best for you and your body and make your practice your own! Come back to this instruction as often as you need and your neck and shoulders will thank you!

It’s always best to warm up the muscles before stretching to get blood circulating and carrying oxygen to those tight spaces. This is the body’s own medicine for relieving tension and inflammation. For warming up the neck and shoulders, simple neck and shoulder rolls are a great place to start.

Going through a few rounds of cat and cow is always a perfect way to start any practice. So warm up before getting into deep stretching. For now, let’s take a look at what postures can help you with your neck and shoulder tension!

6 Yoga Poses For Neck & Shoulder Tension Infographic

yoga poses for neck and shoulder tension infographic

Reverse Prayer - Viparita Namaskarasana

The first pose I want to show you is great not only because it’s so simple, but also because you can do it anywhere, anytime to find some tension relief. Bring the hands to the lower back in a prayer position, roll the shoulders away from the ears.

Slowly move the hands up the spine, working your way in between the shoulder blades. Lift the chest and press the hands into the back. Feel the elbows draw away from the shoulders and the shoulders draw away from the ears.

Take at least five deep breaths in this posture, really feeling the stretch through the shoulders and base of the neck as you open through the chest.

Explore the posture by adding some head nods or neck rolls to get even more relief and mobility.

Reverse Prayer Pose

Extended Puppy Pose - Uttana Shishosana

For the next pose, we’ll start in tabletop position, checking our alignment, making sure the shoulders and hips are stacked over wrists and knees. As you exhale, walk the hands out in front of the body allowing the chest to come forward and the forehead comes to rest on the mat. Explore the pose opening the arms wider to find what feels best for you in this stretch. Take several deep breaths in this pose.

Make sure you keep the arms lengthened and engaged and press into the hands and all the fingers. Open the shoulders away from the ears.

This pose is called puppy pose, or heart melting pose. It’s great for opening the front and back of the body. 

extended puppy pose uttana shishosana

Crocodile Pose - Makarasana 

This next posture is oh-so-simple, but oh-so-good and is extremely restorative. If you can, try to stay in it for a few minutes to really let the body soak up all the expansion it offers. Come to lying face down on the mat with keet about hip distance apart. Stack the hands beneath the forehead, creating a pillow. Allow the elbows to be wide and extend away from the armpits. Let the pelvis anchor. Breathe deeply into the chest and the back body.

This pose opens space for the diaphragm to expand, allowing you to breathe more deeply and circulate even more oxygen through the muscles. 

crocodile makarasana

Supine Spinal Twist - Supta Matsyendrasana

Our next posture is also lying down and you’re probably not unfamiliar with it. Lie flat on your back and bring the knees into the chest with the lower back remaining on the ground. Open the arms wide into a T position, extending straight out from the body. Drop the knees to one side of the body and turn your gaze in the opposite direction. Spinal twist. This posture is detoxifying and restorative.

It’s good to spend enough time in the pose so that you are really able to move the breath through those internal organs.

Keep the shoulder blades on the floor and allow the chest to open. Breathe into the heart space. Obviously, you’ll want to repeat this on the other side as well.

Supine Spinal Twist - Supta Matsyendrasana

Fish Pose Variation - Matsyasana

Next, we’ll use a block or blanket to support our fish pose. You can place your prop on your mat in between the space where your shoulders will be. Lie down and adjust your prop as necessary so that the chest and shoulders are able to stay open. The crown of the head drops toward the mat, the arms extend along side the body, palms face up.

Keep the legs together and the feet pointed. Pointing the feet helps stretch the muscles all the way through the hips and into the lower abs. Breathe into the throat and back of the neck and into the chest and shoulders.

Stay in this posture for at least ten breaths, or longer if it’s comfortable for you. Make sure your weight is not on your head, compressing the neck. Fish pose.

fish pose - matsyansana

Legs-up-the-Wall - Viparita Karani

Lastly, legs up the wall pose. First come to sit with your shoulder and hip against the wall with knees bent to the chest. Lay the back to the ground with the knees tucked in as you rotate the hips to face the wall. Extend the legs up the wall. Bring the arms into a T and tuck the shoulders behind the back. Stay in this posture as long as you wish, several minutes is great. It allows blood to flow back to the heart and it helps the central nervous system to relax.

Part of relieving tension in our neck and shoulders is knowing how to find stillness so the body can rest and recover. This is a great posture for doing just that. 

Legs up the wall - Viparita Karani

Featured Video: 6 Yoga Poses For Neck & Shoulder Tension


Make sure that whatever posture you’re in, anytime you’re practicing, connect to your breath! Your breath is the very thing that carries energy, oxygen, prana through the body. If we hold the breath but continue the movement, we’re not flowing and we’re not relieving tension and stress.

Deep breathing helps calm the nervous system, alleviating stress and it also helps the muscles expand, find more mobility and therefore, reduce tension. 

I hope this has inspired you to explore these poses on your own and find what helps you relieve tension in the shoulders and neck.

If you regularly struggle with neck and shoulder tension, try taking the reverse prayer pose several times throughout your day to recondition the mobility in those muscles.

Practicing any of these postures regularly will help you experience more of the benefits than simply doing them on occasion. If you carry a lot of stress with your tension, spend time in the restorative postures and allow your whole body to experience relief.

Remember, your body is a machine and you have to take care of all the parts for it to work its best! Come back to this video anytime you need a refresher on these postures or just want to say hey! Enjoy your practice!



Hillary is a natural-born wanderer and wonderer. A digital nomad and pilgrim of the heart, she often feels herself a poster child of the Spiritual Millennial. As a writer, health coach and yoga instructor Read More..

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