Yoga for Back and Neck Pain

restorative yoga teacher training for painBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

Chronic back and neck pain affects the lives of many people who sit at computers all day, spend hours driving, or work at desks. These types of jobs can result in stiffness and pain in the back and neck, which is hard to relieve. Massage or exercise can release the pain for a many people, but it may come back after only a day or two. Yoga can also practiced as a therapeutic method to treat chronic pain. There are many specific Yoga poses that will release tension. The meditative and breathing aspects of Yoga also aid in releasing the stress that often causes the pain.


The Source of Pain

Chronic neck or back pain can be tricky, because the source of the pain can be difficult to pinpoint. It might be related to tight muscles in the legs or elsewhere in the body that does not necessarily hurt. Hatha Yoga stretches the entire body, making the pain go away and preventing new aches and pains from occurring. The Yoga postures also strengthen these muscles, creating balance between opposing muscle groups, which makes them less likely to hurt.


Consult Your Physician 

You should always let your primary care physician know what your state of health is and what actions you are taking in order to improve your health or reduce pain in your life. Most doctors and chiropractors are fine with Yoga, but you should still contact your health care professional, because he or she knows your specific health profile and case history.  A phone call to your doctor’s office is painless and you may learn new information about your specific health profile.


Yoga Poses for Pain

Yoga postures can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Someone sitting at a desk for hours at a time can easily take short, but frequent moments to stretch the body. The following Yoga postures can be practiced as a home routine to help relieve back pain: seated twist, bow pose, bridge pose, camel pose, cat and cow poses, downward dog, side angle pose, triangle pose, and forward fold.



If you are new to Yoga, please seek out formal instruction from a competent Yoga teacher, who teaches a gentle and therapeutic style. Never force your body into any position or lock your joints.  When folding or twisting the body, you must be able to breathe completely.  If you cannot breathe, you are in too far and need to back out of the posture to the point where you can completely inhale and exhale.  Some specific postures may not agree with your back or neck.  Each person’s back or neck condition is uniquely different.  Therefore, any positions that cause pain should be stopped immediately.


Many of the Yoga poses for back pain also relieve neck pain. In addition to the previous poses, you can relieve and eliminate neck pain with these postures: child’s pose, corpse pose, extended puppy pose, eagle pose, dolphin pose, and shoulder rolls.


Pranayama to Reduce Pain

The importance of breathing to relieve pain should not be overlooked. Many people forget to breathe deeply throughout the day, which deprives the body of fresh oxygen supplies. Neck pain can also be caused by shallow breathing, which causes the neck muscles to contract instead of the diaphragm.


Neck pain can sometimes be relieved by sitting in easy pose and breathing deeply for several minutes. Close your eyes, inhale, and focus on filling up the belly and chest, then slowly release the breath. Concentrate on keeping the shoulders down and the chest open. If this is done every hour or so, neck pain will be substantially reduced.

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