A stiff neck can be a real pain in the… neck! Discomfort caused by neck tightness can lead to (or worsen) stress. If pain becomes chronic, it can even lead to insomnia and depression. Releasing neck tension is an important step to bring your body back into balance.
Easy Pose, also known as “Simple Cross-Legged Pose,” is a basic yoga pose that stretches the knees, thighs, and ankles while strengthening the back. The Sanskrit name for Easy Pose is “Sukhasana” (soo-KAHS-uh-nuh), which literally means “good space pose.” This variation, Easy Pose with Neck Stretch, incorporates gentle movements to release neck tension and stress.
Benefits of Easy Pose with Neck Stretching
This pose stretches the neck, hips, knees, and ankles. It also increases flexibility throughout the upper back, shoulders, and chest. Sitting upright with your spine aligned helps reduce stress and anxiety. If your hips are tight, practice the pose while seated on a block or bolster. Regularly practicing this pose will help open your neck, shoulders, and hips even further, and it will bring your entire spine into correct alignment.
One of two things will happen after you do yoga for a few years. Either you will begin to change for the better, or you will stop doing yoga.
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Neck pain can sometimes be the result of an injury or degenerative changes in the spine. If you have neck pain accompanied by dizziness or nausea, please do not attempt yoga! There are many possible causes of neck pain, so be sure to get a correct diagnosis from your doctor before starting any yoga program. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Also avoid practicing this pose if you have a knee injury. If your hips are very tight, it might be difficult to cross your legs. Never force the pose. Instead, practice a modified version until your flexibility increases (see Modifications & Variations, below). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
- Sit on the edge of a firm blanket. Extend your legs in front of your body and sit up straight. Then, cross your legs in front of you at the shins. If your hips are very tight, you can sit on a bolster or block. With your knees wide, place each foot beneath the opposite knee. Fold your legs in toward your torso. This is Easy Pose (Sukhasana).
- Balance your weight evenly across your sit bones. Align your head, neck, and spine. Lengthen your spine, but soften your neck. Relax your feet and thighs.
- On an exhalation, drop your chin toward your chest, keeping your elbows and shoulders drawn back. As you inhale, raise your head back to center. Repeat this sequence five times, and then bring your head to the center.
- On your next exhalation, gently drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. Inhale as you bring your head back to the center. Exhale again as you drop your left ear toward your left shoulder. Repeat this sequence five times, and then bring your head back to the center.
- Lean back and change the cross of your legs. Repeat steps 2-4, then rest.
Modifications & Variations
Easy Pose with Neck Stretch can be done throughout the day to release tension and stress. It's important to feel comfortable while seated in this position, so make the changes you need to feel supported in the pose. Here are a few suggestions:
- For a deeper stretch, rest a hand gently on your head as you stretch ear-to-shoulder. Use the hand of the same-side shoulder to which you are dropping your ear. For example, when dropping your right ear toward your shoulder, use your right hand for leverage. Be careful not to push or force your head — just rest your palm and let the natural weight and gravity of your hand provide the extra stretch.
- If your hips are tight, don't sit flat on the floor. Instead, prop yourself up on a blanket, a pile of firm blankets, a yoga bolster or block, or a meditation pillow. Sitting with your hips above the level of your knees reduces the stress on your hips, knees, and back. Practice with different heights of support to find the one that is most comfortable and appropriate for you.
- If your hips are extremely tight, practice this pose seated in a chair. Keep both feet flat on the floor and your knees facing forward. Perform steps 2-4 as listed above in the instructions.
Easy Pose with Neck Stretch can be a useful transition to your yoga practice after a long day. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Move slowly and smoothly. Never force your head into any position.
- Do not pull or yank on your head to deepen the stretch. Instead, use the weight of your hand to gently guide your head toward each shoulder.
- Move with your breath: Exhale as you lower your head and inhale as you return your head to the center.
- Keep your spine vertical throughout the pose. The crown of your head should maintain its alignment directly over your tailbone when you are sitting up straight.
- Your legs should cross naturally. Do not force them into any position or worry about whether your feet are placed “correctly.” It only matters that you have a comfortable gap between your feet and your pelvis, and that the pose feels comfortable.
Soften & Release
Easy Pose with Neck Strech is a simple way to calm and balance your mind and body. Gently stretching your neck throughout the day will reduce tension and stress. The more you incorporate little bits of yoga into your day, the more easily you will gain all of the benefits yoga has to offer. Remember never to force anything and to be gentle with your neck. Practicing this pose regularly can be a great way to remain balanced and stress-free in your everyday life.