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How to Treat a Stiff Neck With Yoga

author image Linda Kaban
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.
How to Treat a Stiff Neck With Yoga
A stiff neck will respond to a few simple yoga poses. Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Your neck contains the most fragile of the spinal vertebrae, known as the C series. When your neck seizes up due to stress, it's important to work the kinks out without endangering those vertebrae. To relieve pain and restore mobility, your first impulse might be to swivel your head around and push through the crick in your neck. A better way is to perform a gentle series of yoga poses to release tension in your cervical spine.

Step 1

Kneel on the floor or sit in an armless, straight-backed chair. Lengthen your spine. If your shoulders have a tendency to travel up toward your ears, make a concerted effort to lower your shoulders and move your shoulders blades slightly toward each other to counter poor posture. If your stiff neck permits, settle your head in the center between your shoulder blades. On an inhale, raise your right shoulder as high as you can, while lowering your left. When exhaling, lower your right shoulder and raise your left. Coordinate your shoulder shrugs with your inhale and exhale for up to two minutes.

Step 2

Sit comfortably with a straight back. Shrug your shoulders down and back if they’re tensed up around your ears. Inhale, then on your exhale slowly drop your head toward your chest without forcing the movement. Inhale and raise your head, then exhale and slightly bend it to the left, ear toward shoulder. Repeat this maneuver to the back and to the right and do two more repetitions of the entire circuit. Finish by performing neck rolls in a clockwise direction.

Step 3

Spread your legs hip-width apart while standing. Relax your knees and then fold forward from your hips until your arms are dangling close to the floor. Let your head hang naturally, don't try to force it. Breathe slowly and evenly as you stay in this pose for up to a minute. For a seated variation, slide to the front of the chair and place your legs 2 or 3 feet apart. As in the standing variation, fold forward at the hips and let your arms and head droop downward. Remain in this pose for up to a minute. In either variation, bring your head up last as you return to starting position.

Step 4

Come onto your hands and knees on the floor and raise your head to look forward in Cat pose. Position your wrists directly under your shoulders, knees directly under your hips. Inhale, and on your exhale, tuck your tailbone under and arch your back up into a curve. Keep your arms rigid and allow your head to hang down between your arms. Inhale and return to your original, neutral, flat-back position, but keep your head dangling. Continue alternating between Cat pose and the neutral pose for up to three minutes.

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