Yoga for neck pain

Practicing yoga for neck pain relief and prevention

Yoga is a popular exercise technique because it has benefits for both the mind and the body.  I really enjoy practicing yoga because it helps me to relax. Many individuals choose to practice yoga for its benefits to the spine and neck.  I was told a quote once that was apparently from a yoga master (not sure which one!), “you’re as young as your spine is flexible!”

If you are dealing with neck pain and are interested in yoga, read on. We’ll share some tips on doing yoga to help relieve and prevent neck pain.

Is one type of yoga better than others?

There are two styles of yoga that are particularly helpful for individuals with back and neck pain. These are viniyoga and lyengar yoga. Viniyoga, also called vinyasa yoga, is adapted for each person, and focuses on controlled breathing and flowing movement. Iyengar yoga is focused on proper alignment and controlled movement. It often incorporates the use of props and can be tailored to the needs of a person with injuries.

What positions can help with neck pain?

Positions vary across disciplines, although there are some common poses such as child’s pose, which is a resting pose. If you are just beginning yoga, keep the cardinal rule of fitness in mind: if it hurts, don’t do it. Inform your instructor of your injury and ask for modified positions that can help with the pain. You may also request that he or she let you know what positions you may find particularly helpful.

If you have no cardiac or cardiovascular problems, consider bikram yoga. Bikram, or hot yoga, is practiced in a heated environment. This can help tissues to stretch and increase flexibility, and may relieve some back and neck pain as a result. If you have a heart condition, avoid this practice. The high heat is not good for your heart.

What practices should be avoided?

Power yoga, also called asthanga, is not a good practice for individuals suffering from back or neck pain. This practice is best for the physically fit and athletic, as well as those who wish to prevent the recurrence of a prior injury.

There are other, newer, types of practices such as Baptiste yoga (following Baron Baptiste’s teaching) which are also done in warmed rooms, but the temperatures are usually not as hot as bikram.  Baptiste yoga is another vigorous type of yoga, and as long as my neck is not in acute pain, I find it a great discipline to practice because it helps build up the strength in my core and back, preventing pain and improving my posture.

How do you choose a yoga studio?

Look for a studio with well-trained instructors who are willing to show their certification. Many studios will let you try a class, or even a few, for free.  This is a great idea so you can see if you like the style of the teaching and the practice.

Additionally, in some areas you may be able to find yoga instructors who have training in body mechanics as well, or even in physical therapy. These individuals may be especially well suited to working with people who have back and neck pain issues.

What About DVDs and Videos?

A live class is nearly always best, but if it isn’t possible for you to attend a class, you still have options. If you currently attend physical therapy or are seeing a physician for your back or neck pain, ask for DVD and video recommendations. Not all videos are created equal, so don’t assume that any yoga DVD or video will work. You want to make sure that the instruction is provided by a qualified instructor, and that the workout does not contain moves that could hurt or re-injure you.


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