We’ve all had some neck pains before and I don’t need to tell you that they can be a real pain in the … Well, you know what I was going to say. The neck is very vulnerable and when you have pain, you probably realize how often we use this thing that is attached to our neck. Yes, we use it a lot! It can take us down in many ways, from not being able to do our daily movements, to causing a major headache.
Luckily there is something called yoga, that will actually help us relieve the tension in the neck. Yoga for the neck is really great to relieve your symptoms, but also to strengthen the muscles to prevent future ailment. Let’s have a look at the asanas you can do at home.
Asanas To Strengthen Neck Muscles
Fish Pose with blocks (Matsyasana)
This first asana is my absolute favorite when I’d like to work a bit on my neck muscles. This one is a variation on Fish Pose. And you’ll be needing a block as well. For this one, I’d like to recommend a softer block as you’ll be pushing your head into it.
So, to start off. Lie down with your back on the mat and the back of your head on the block. Normally within fish pose you’d like to have the top of your head on the mat, but not for this variation.
Now, move your shoulders away from your neck and put your elbows next to your body. Your hands will be up in the air, with your arms in a 90° angle.
But hold on, it’s not over just yet, when you are in the right position, you’ll be lifting your chest by pressing your head into the block and pressing your elbows into the mat.
Do this on an inhalation and release again on an exhalation. You can do this exercise as much as you’d like, however, try to incorporate it into a sequence to make sure that you’re not just training your neck exercises, leaving you with a buff neck. That’s gonna be a bit of a weird sight…
This one is a real easy one and I actually like to recommend this one for people who are sitting at desks all day long. It’s a great way to make sure that you relieve your shoulders and neck once in a while. And it’s also a great way to release some stress-related tension.
It’s also a great exercise to start your yoga practice with and to warm up the muscles in your neck and shoulders, especially when you are going to do a lot of down-dogs.
For this, you’ve just got to sit in a comfortable position. And as mentioned before, you can even do this from your desk chair. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed. On the inhalation bring your shoulders towards your ears, as high as you physically can. Then just drop them on the exhalation.
Of course, with drop them I mean that you can just let them fall down in a comfortable way. Make sure that you won’t pull a muscle by actively pushing them down again.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose itself is also a very great position to strengthen the neck a little, but it’s also a great way to work on some other areas in your body as your spine and core. If you are suffering from lower back pains, it’s best to take it slow on this one.
For this asana you are going to lie down on your back. Bend your knees and bring your feet towards your buttocks. To know that you are in the right position, try to grab your ankles with your hands. If you can reach them, that means that your feet are positioned correctly.
Your head needs to rest with the back on the mat, opening up the space between your chest and chin. As you’ll lift up, this space will get smaller, so you have to put your head in the right position to make sure you’ll still be able to breath comfortably.
On the inhalation, lift up your buttocks until they’re more or less at the same height as your knees. making that your hips and legs are positioned at a 90° angle.
When you exhale you can slowly come down again. Make sure you do this with full awareness. And if it helps, close your eyes and feel every single vertebra coming into the mat again.
Bridge Pose Variations
There are also a couple of variations available within Bridge pose to work on some other areas of your body as well. And they are really great to do while you are creating your own yoga flow with some Sequence builder tools.
Strengthening your core
If you’d like to work a little on your abdomen as well, while you are at it, the next steps will make sure that you’ll get a little workout as well. This one I don’t recommend for people with lower back issues, like a hernia.
When your buttocks are up in the air, stay there. This alone will already be a good workout for legs and neck, but you can push it even a bit more. Well, pushing in the sense that you’ll be getting more of a workout. I’d really never advise someone to push it during yoga.
Alright, your buttocks are up in the air, you are breathing comfortably, and on the inhalation, you’ll be lifting and straightening your left or right leg. It doesn’t matter what leg you’ll start with, you’ll have to do them both anyway.
On the exhale, put your foot back on the mat and repeat this process with the other side.
Strengthening your shoulders
With most exercises for the neck you’ll also be strengthening your shoulders as well. Both of them are connected with each other, so it’s not that hard to see that you’ll be working on both of these areas. With this variation though you’ll be working a bit extra on your shoulder and even a little on your shoulder blades.
This variation asks for a bit more coordination, but it’s nothing too hard really. For this you’ve got to follow the steps of the original position, but you’ll be raising your arms as well on the inhalation.
So, to break it down. On the inhalation, you’ll be lifting your buttocks, and at the same time you’ll be raising your arms as well until they end up over your head. on the exhalation lift them up again until they are positioned next to your body again.
While doing this exercise, you really have to make sure that you feel your shoulder blades getting pushed into the mat. You don’t have to do an awful lot for it, gravity will do most of the work for you.
Cow Face Pose (Ghomukasana)
As childish as I am, it took me a while not to laugh with the name of this asana. But it is a great one to strengthen your shoulders and neck. Even though it looks like it is a very easy position, it does ask for some coordination.
While you are sitting on your yoga mat, stretch your legs. First of, put the right leg over the left one and bend it. Let it slide over the lower leg until your right foot reaches your left hip.
After that, bend the lower leg until your left foot reaches your right hip.
Bring your right arm over your head now and put your left arm on your back . Bend the right arm over your head, lower the hand behind your back and reach for your left hand.
If you can’t reach both hands together, don’t be too worried about it. Put both hands on your spine and make sure that your fingers are pointing towards each other.
If you have a strap, you can also use it as an extension to grasp for both hands. This way you can put engage the muscles in your shoulders, neck, and arms to get the best benefit out of this asana.
If you can reach for your hands, clasp them together to make sure you can put enough pressure so you feel the stretch. Just make sure that you don’t cling too hard on your hands that you pull something. The stretch should feel gentle and you shouldn’t be hurting yourself.
On an exhale release and switch sides.
Thread-The-Needle (Parsva Balasana)
The last pose good for the neck and shoulders is the Thread-The-Needle pose. The pose in itself will give a good stretch for the shoulders, but you can go even deeper into this position by a variation that I will explain a little bit lower.
For this asana we start in Tabletop Position, or all-fours. Make sure that your hands are straight underneath your shoulders and knees are placed right below the hips. Just to make sure that your alignment is top-notch!
On an inhalation, lift your right arm over your head, torso twists a bit as well. And then on the exhale, you’ll be bringing your right hand through the gap of your torso and left arm. You’ll be placing your right hand on the mat and the left arm bends a little. Your head rests on the floor.
You can stay here for a couple of breaths and on an inhalation you can bring your right arm back to the center into tabletop position. Of course, as always, don’t forget to do the other side as well.
Variation on Thread-the-Needle
As I mentioned before, there’s also a little variation on this asana to make sure that you get a little bit deeper into the position. Don’t worry, it’s not going to cost a lot more effort, it’s just to make sure that gravity does its thing and gives you a deeper stretch.
For this you have to go into the position as mentioned above. When you did it, you raise the arm that is actually supporting you. You can bring it all the way up or you can decide to let it rest on the side of your body.
While you do this, you’ll be able to feel that gravity is stretching out those shoulder and neck muscles even more.
To get out of this position, on an exhalation bring your arm back to the mat so you can actually push yourself up again. This is quite important as you also don’t want to put too much weight on your shoulders and neck to prevent injuries.
Benefits for your Yoga Practice
What I didn’t mention before in this article is that these exercises for the neck aren’t just great to prevent some injuries within your daily life. It’s also a great way to prepare yourself for some other positions.
These asanas are actually also something you have to do when you’d like to progress in your yoga routine. They are for example a must-do before you start doing inversions.
And now I’m specifically talking about doing a Tripod Headstand. These asanas up here are a great way to make sure that you won’t be pulling any muscles, by strengthening them first.
This inversion in itself can be quite risky if you haven’t done any prep-work beforehand. Like a chef who is cutting vegetables for the first time in a fast pace. He might be able to pull it off, but without the preparation and experience he might also cut off his finger.
So, keep these asanas in mind if you’d like to create some strength when you are going to incorporate some inversions in your daily yoga routine.
And that’s about it for this article, if you have any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section below, or you can also reach out to us if you’d like with the contact form.