The neck and shoulders are a common place to hold tension and emotional stress, especially if you spend long hours working at a computer. So, today I’m going to look at some simple moves you can use to release tightness in these areas and tone the muscles.
I recently met with Yoga teacher, Abi Mills, on Instagram to offer some tips and tricks to relax and tone the shoulder and neck area. We each shared three moves you can do easily throughout your day. I’ll run through these in just a moment, or you can also catch up on my YouTube channel.
What I love about these six moves is that they are so simple to do. You can do all of them from a seated position, so they should be accessible for most people.
I think sometimes people get put off trying Yoga because they think it will require them to do a long, dedicated daily practice. Or they worry that they need to have a certain level of fitness or flexibility.
If that’s you, I want to reassure you that yoga is suitable for everyone. It can be adapted to any age, fitness level, and mobility level. It is just about moving your body, getting the circulation going, and connecting with your breath.
Moves like the ones I’m about to share with you can be done at any point in your day. Because they are seated poses, you can do them at your desk, or on the sofa in front of the TV. They are short too, so you can easily fit them into your routine.
Start with small techniques like these and build from there. And I also encourage you to work intuitively. Listen to what your body needs from you that day. Yoga is a part of my daily routine, but what that looks like varies from day to day. Yes, sometimes it will be a dynamic 90-minute practice. But sometimes it will be five minutes in child pose.
It is just about connecting to your needs and responding to them in that moment. Yoga shouldn’t feel like a chore or a competition. It should be enjoyable.
With that in mind, let’s look at six techniques you can use to release tension and tone your neck and shoulders. The first three tips are Abi’s, and the final three are mine.
As always, work to your own level and stop if you feel any pain or pinching during a pose.
1. Side Neck
Find a comfortable seated position and start by taking some deep breaths, concentrating on relaxing any areas where you can feel you are holding tension. Visualise the stress leaving your body as you breathe.
Keeping your shoulders still, tilt your head to the right, dropping your ear down towards your shoulder. You’ll feel a stretch in the opposite side of your neck.
To deepen the pose, reach your right arm up and over your head, placing it palm down on the left side of your head, fingers facing down. Gently encourage the stretch by resting your hand here.
You can also extend the stretch by straightening your left arm and flexing your wrist so that your fingers point upwards. Keep breathing deeply.
Hold the pose for as long as feels good, at least one full breath. Then release and repeat it on the other side.
This is a lovely move to use at the start of your yoga practice to release stiffness in your neck and deltoid muscles.
2. Stretch with Interlocked Fingers
Interlock your fingers and push your hands away from you at chest level until your arms are fully extended. Your palms are facing outwards. Curve your back slightly forward to deepen the stretch. You should feel this in the large trapezius muscle at the centre of your upper back.
Stay for at least one full breath, then move your arms up over your head, palms facing the ceiling. Roll your shoulders back and down, away from your ears.
Find as much length as you can here, breathing into the space you’ve created in the front of your body.
Keeping your fingers interlocked, take your hands down to the back of your head. Push your elbows out and lift your chest to open across your collarbones. You’ll feel a squeeze in the muscles of your back and shoulders.
Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, gently curve your spine, tucking your chin in and allowing your shoulder blades to slide down. Your elbows come in to wrap around the sides of your head.
Release and come back to a neutral position.
This series of stretches works beautifully when you are sat at your desk to combat the tension from hunching over a computer.
3. Deltoid Stretch
Extend your right arm forwards at chest height, pointing your fingers forwards.
Take the arm straight across your body, so your fingers are now pointing to the left.
Use your left arm to deepen the stretch, by hooking your forearm under your right arm. Use it to pull the arm gently towards you. Turn your head to look over your right shoulder.
Remember to keep your breath open here. You’ll feel the stretch in your deltoid and into your scapula.
Release and then repeat the move on the other side.
4. Tone Side Neck and Jaw
Turn your face to one side and slightly tilt your chin upwards. You should immediately feel a stretch on the side of your neck and up into the muscles of your face and jaw.
Make sure you keep your shoulders dropped down and back.
Deepen the stretch by extending your tongue out in the direction of your nose. Hold this for around 15 seconds, breathing deeply.
Release and then repeat the move on the other side. Do a second round, right and left.
This one is a lovely Face Yoga for toning the muscles in your face and neck, helping to prevent a turkey neck.
5. Tone Front of Neck
Next, we’ll move onto toning and firming the muscles at the front of the neck, which is again excellent for preventing sagging in this area.
Take the fingers of both hands to your collarbone and tilt your head back slightly. Then stick your bottom lip up and forward to engage the muscle at the front of your neck. Hold this for 3-4 breaths.
You can either release back to centre for a moment or continue from where we are. Still with your head tilted back, bring your lips together.
You can keep your hands where they are or take one horizontally across your collarbone and the other just under your chin.
Take your tongue up to the roof of your mouth, then release. Repeat this approximately once a second for around a minute. Don’t forget to keep breathing deeply.
You’ll immediately feel this toning and firming the muscles under your chin.
We are going to finish with a simple massage technique to release tension from the back of your neck. This also helps to improve your posture, making you less likely to dip your chin down and cause wrinkles in the neck area.
Take one hand to cup the back of your neck. Use it to gently squeeze the muscles and then lift off. Repeat this movement for up to a minute.
Then take two fingers to the acupressure point at your shoulder well. You’ll find this on top of your shoulder, roughly in line with your nipple.
NB: I suggest skipping this acupressure point if you are pregnant.
Exert gentle pressure on the point. Then move your fingers in a small circular movement, first one way and then the other, to massage it. Repeat on the other side.
That’s it. These six moves are quick and easy to do, making them ideal to slot into your day whenever you have some time.
The key with Yoga (and Face Yoga) is to do it regularly. Find a space in your routine, at whatever time of day suits you, and begin with just a few poses.
I have plenty of guides available to help you get started. You can find suggestions for short routines via my Instagram, on YouTube, or on the Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method apps. Or, if you want help building a daily practice, my 10-day face yoga course is the perfect way to make Face Yoga a part of your routine. If you would like to teach these wonderful Face Yoga moves to others you can become a fully certified Face Yoga teacher with our Face Yoga teacher training course.