Whether you slept in a funky position last night or you have been sitting and staring tensely at your computer for hours on end, neck pain happens. And a crick in the neck is not only annoying and painful, but it can also lead to headaches and upper back pain. To help reduce the aches and pains try a few of these satisfying stretches. After taking a long, hot shower to help loosen the muscles, try a few (or all) of them for a little instant relief. You’ll feel better and maybe you’ll even stand a bit taller.
1. Seated Neck Release
This gentle stretch targets the sides of your neck.
Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position or in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Extend your right arm next to your right knee or along the right side of the chair. Place your left hand on the top of your head and slowly tilt your head to the left. Apply gentle pressure with your hand to increase the stretch. To feel a deeper stretch, you can hold onto your right knee or the seat of the chair. This stabilizes the torso and allows you to isolate the stretch on the side of your neck. Hold on this side for 30 seconds, then slowly lift your head up and repeat this stretch on the other side.
2. Seated Clasping Neck Stretch
Use your hands to offer a deep stretch for the back of your neck and your upper back.
Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Clasp your hands and bring both palms to the back of your head. Sitting with a tall spine, ground your hips firmly into your seat. From here, begin to gently press your hands down toward your thighs, tucking your chin into your chest. As you press down, use the heels of your palms to pull your head away from your shoulders. This will intensify the stretch even more. Hold here for at least 30 seconds, and then slowly lift your head up and release your hands.
3. Behind the Back Neck Stretch
This standing stretch can be done anywhere, and will offer a deep stretch in the sides of your neck.
Stand with your feet hip distance apart, arms by your sides. Reach both hands behind your backside, and hold onto your left wrist with your right hand. Use your right hand to gently straighten your left arm and pull it away from you slightly. To increase the stretch in your neck, slowly lower your right ear toward your shoulder. Stay here for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
4. Grounded Tipover Tuck
Here’s a relaxing stretch for your neck and shoulders that can also help relieve headaches and drowsiness.
Come into Child’s Pose with your shins and forehead on the floor. Stay here for a few breaths, working on lengthening your spine as you relax your chest to your thighs. When you’re ready, interlace your hands behind you in a double fist. If you can, press the heels of your palms together to increase the stretch in your shoulders. Then lift your hands as high as you can. Inhale to shift your weight forward and lift your hips off your heels. Come to rest on the top of your head and extend your hands as close to the floor as you can. Stay here for 10 seconds and then lower your hips back to your heels. Stay here for 10 seconds, and then lift your hips up again. Continue this cycle five or more times, then release into Child’s Pose with your arms on either side of your legs.
5. Seated Heart Opener
Stretch through the front of your neck, chest, and shoulders with this relaxing heart opener.
Begin sitting on the heels as if coming into Reclining Hero pose. Lean back and place your palms flat on the floor about eight to 10 inches behind you so your fingertips are pointing away. Press your hands firmly into the ground to lift the chest high, arching your back and pushing your hips into your heels. To increase the stretch, lower your head behind you, stretching through your throat and the front of your chest even more. Stay for 30 seconds, then lift your head and torso up.
Here’s a classic yoga pose that allows you to control how much you stretch the back of your neck by how high the hips are lifted.
Begin lying flat on your back with your arms along the sides of your body, with your palms facing down. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Walk your heels as close as you can to your bum, keeping them hip-width apart. Make sure both feet are parallel. With your palms and feet pressing firmly into the ground, lift your hips off the floor. Stay here, or clasp your hands together below your pelvis, extending through your arms. Rock your weight from side to side to bring the shoulder blades closer together. Stay here for 30 seconds, continuing to lift the hips high. To release this stretch, gently lower your booty back to the ground. Then stretch through your lower back by hugging your knees into your chest.