myles golden
August 7, 2014
5 Stretches to Release the Neck & Shoulders

5 Stretches to Release the Neck & Shoulders

We all experience neck and shoulder tension once in a while.  Whenever I’m stressed out, my shoulders creep up to my ears and my neck stiffens.  These easy stretches will release the unnecessary tightness that we deposit into our neck and shoulders from bad posture, sitting too often and lack of awareness.  They can be done standing, sitting in a chair, or seated in any comfortable position on the floor.   For a full length video with more stretches and guidance, try our Release Neck and Shoulders video.  It’s only 20 minutes and is great for all levels of experience, especially beginners.

Start with your hands resting softly on the thighs, relax the shoulders and close the eyes.  Deepen the breath through the nose.  Let it be natural and easy but deeper than it normally is.  The most effective way to release tension is by deepening the breath.   Once you find a steady breathing rhythm, move through these stretches and let your breath flow freely and smoothly.

Start by lengthening the spine:


  • Reach the arms overhead
  • Interlace the hands and press up toward the sky
  • Lengthen up from the low belly, side ribs and back ribs.
  • Soften the shoulders and lengthen up through the crown.
  • Take 8-10 deep breaths.

Stretch and lengthen the back of the neck:


  • Placed the interlaced hands behind the head
  • Let the thumbs press up into the base of the occipital bone (ridge of the skull)
  • Tuck the chin to the chest and draw the elbows in toward the ears
  • Keeping the chin tucked, press the head into the hands to stretch the back of the neck.
  • Take 8-10 deep breaths.

Open the chest and shoulders:


  • Keeping the hands interlaced, open the elbows and press the head back into the hands.
  • Keep the thumbs at the base of the skull and gently pull up to lengthen the back of the neck.
  • Lift from the heart as you press the head back and lift the elbows up and back.
  • Take 8-10 deep breaths into the chest and shoulders.

Stretch the upper back and between the shoulder blades:


  • Reach the arms wide and bring one elbow over the other.
  • Wind the wrists around each other and bring the palms together (modify this by pressing the backs of the hands together).
  • Lift the elbows up as high as you comfortably can for 8-10 breaths.
  • Drop the elbows down and tuck the chin for 8-10 breaths.
  • Switch sides.

Cow-faced (Gomukhasana) Arms


  • Stretch one arm up to the sky and catch the elbow with the other hand.
  • Center the elbow behind the head.Hold it there and press your head back, lifting the heart toward the sky.
  • If you can, reach the opposite hand up the middle of the back and clasp the fingers.
  • You can use a strap or a hand towel to connect the hands and press the head back.
  • Take 8-10 deep breaths.
  • Switch sides.

End where you began.  Place the hands softly on the thighs, close the eyes and soften the shoulders.  Take a few deep breaths, letting go of any leftover tension with your exhales.  Open the eyes and notice how much better you feel.  Yoga – it works every time!

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