Power Yoga Moves for Releasing Shoulder and Neck Tension

By Larry Payne, Georg Feuerstein, Sherri Baptiste, Doug Swenson, Stephan Bodian, LaReine Chabut, Therese Iknoian

Who can resist a nice shoulder and neck massage? Well, Power Yoga can help with that. All day, you build tension and stress in your neck and shoulders, and by the end of the day you need a massage in the worst way! The problem is that you also need a willing masseuse. Well, these two exercises let you give yourself a massage to roll the tension right out of those tight neck and shoulder muscles.

These exercises are also terrific warm-ups for your Power Yoga routines. Give them a try before your Power Yoga workout or anytime you need to roll the weight of the world off your shoulders.

Rolling the boulders off your shoulders

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream,” goes the song. Wouldn’t that hurt with your shoulders feeling as tight as they do right now? You need strong, healthy shoulders to excel in Power Yoga, so this shoulder roll exercise can be an important preamble to your workout.

In this exercise, you lift and lower your shoulders while rotating them in forward and backward circles. These shoulder rolls help you release tension from your shoulders and upper back, and get your rotator cuff (where your arm connects into your torso) warmed up and ready for action.

Follow these steps to get your shoulders rolling:

  1. Sit on the floor, with your spine straight and shoulders back.

    If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable for you, you also can sit on the edge of a sturdy chair.

  2. On an inhalation, rotate your shoulders backward as you lift them up toward your ears.

  3. As you exhale, finish the backward rotation as you lower your shoulders to their original position.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3, reversing the direction of your shoulder rotation.

  5. Repeat each rotation three or four times, and then relax your shoulders.

    [Credit: Photograph by Raul Marroquin]

    Credit: Photograph by Raul Marroquin

Getting rid of that pain in the neck

When the muscles in your neck get tight and stiff, they can interfere with all your upper body movements. This exercise knocks the kinks out of stiff necks to get you warmed up and ready for action.

This simple but powerful exercise helps you to release stress and tension from your neck, stimulating the nerves in your upper spine and the base of your skull. It’s also a great way to build strength and flexibility in all the muscles in your neck, leaving you less prone to future attacks of neck stiffness and pain. Best of all, this exercise is very relaxing.

Follow these steps to warm up your neck muscles:

  1. Sit on the floor (or on the edge of a sturdy chair) with your spine straight and your shoulders back; relax your arms and rest your hands in your lap.

  2. On an exhalation, tilt your head forward and let your chin drop to your chest.

    You feel the muscles in the back of your neck stretch.

  3. Inhale, and lift your head back to its upright position.

  4. Exhale, and tilt your head back as far as you can without hurting anything.

    You feel the muscles in the front of your neck and under your chin stretch.

  5. Again, inhale and return your head to its upright position.

  6. Repeat Steps 1 through 5 four times, and then return to your original posture.

  7. Exhale, and lower your head to your right shoulder; inhale, and raise your head to its original position.

  8. Repeat Step 7, lowering your head to the left side on an exhalation and back to center on an inhalation.

  9. Relax for 3 complete breaths.

    Use your yoga breathing technique for maximum benefit.

  10. On an exhalation, turn your head to the right, keeping your head level as you gaze over your right shoulder; inhale, and turn your head to look straight ahead.

  11. Repeat Step 10, turning your head and gazing to the left on an exhalation and back to center on an inhalation.

  12. Finish by closing your eyes and relaxing for 3 complete breaths.