Stories from Yoga Moves

9 neck and shoulder stretches that melt away a month’s worth of tension in 8 minutes flat

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosApril 30, 2020


Even if your head, neck, and shoulders are experiencing extra soreness during the prolonged COVID-19 quarantine (waiting for everyone reading this to shake their heads in agreement), it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do an extra-long stretching session to combat it. All you really need? This eight-minute flow of neck and shoulder stretches from two yoga pros.

“These are especially good to do in the middle of the day to break up doing work on a computer or sitting at a desk for a long time,” says Chloe Kernaghan, co-founder of New York City’s Sky Ting yoga studio. “So much of the tension we hold in the shoulders, the neck, and the head can cause tension headaches that we don’t even realize are going on. A simple shifting of our physical posture can do so much.” That’s why she and co-founder Krissy Jones are bringing us a sequence of neck and shoulder stretches in this week’s episode of Well+Good’s YouTube series Good Moves. (Cue a global round of applause.)

All you need for the feels-so-good sesh? Just a little bit of space—Kernaghan says you can even do it while sitting at your desk. You don’t need any props unless you prefer sitting on something like a yoga block. Keep scrolling for the tension-melting flow you can easily squeeze into your day.

Try these neck and shoulder stretches

Neck pull—right: Take your right hand and hold it on the top of your skull towards the left ear. Really gently, draw your right ear down towards your right shoulder. As you do this, take your left hand and start to reach it away from that pull to the right. If you’re on the floor, your left fingertips can reach down or maybe reach onto the chair you’re on. Allow your neck to release as you breathe.

Neck circle—right: Start to draw your chin down and towards the center as you keep holding your skull, then take the same route back over to the right side. Slowly do a few circles back and forth between center and your right side.

Neck pull—left: Repeat this stretch on your opposite side.

Neck circle—left: Repeat this stretch on your opposite side.

Chest opener: Bring your hands interlaced behind the back of your head and wrap your elbows in at about a 60-degree angle within your line of peripheral vision. Let your head lean back into the basket of your hands as you lift your chest up. Think of knitting your front ribs in and lift your sternum, really allowing your head to fall into your hands.

Forward neck pull: In the same position, exhale as you draw your chin in towards your chest, bringing your elbows in, rounding the spine. Then lean back into your chest opener. Slowly move back and forward as you breathe.

Shoulder flossing: Take your hands interlaced with your palms up and pull them up towards the ceiling. Start circling them behind your head in one direction for a shoulder floss, then do circles in the opposite direction. This is a way to articulate and let your shoulder blades slide and glide for relief.

Eagle wrap circle: Cactus your arms out and take your right arm wrapped underneath the left for an eagle wrap. You can either do this in full with your palms pressing on the inside, or if you have tight shoulders, hold for your opposite shoulder blades with your elbows crossed in the middle like you’re giving yourself a big hug. Take a circle back with the elbows, allowing your upper body to get involved. Move forward and around, then re-wrap your arms in the opposite setup for more circles.

 Secret prayer: Bring your hands all the way behind you. Either interlace your fingers or lead them up the back with your elbows out wide, or draw them into a prayer variation behind your back. Roll your collarbones out wide and let your chest lift up. Take full breaths in and out.

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