• Caitlin Rose

5 Yoga Exercises for Tight Neck and Shoulders

It’s no secret that one of the most common complaints among musicians is pain or tightness in the upper body.

And it makes sense!

We play for long hours in practice sessions, rehearsals, and lessons (teaching AND taking them). We carry heavy bags full of sheet music, scores, thick rehearsal folders, and instruments.

Not to mention the fact that we are stressed to the max! Our brains are so busy trying to keep up with everything we need to do that it doesn’t have the time or space to think about the fact that we are wearing our shoulders for earrings 95% of the time.

Luckily, there are some simple and practical exercises you can do to help offset the wear-and-tear of your musical life!

They not only help you release the tightness from your muscles, but they also work to strengthen your muscles so they can support themselves better and prevent future tightness and pain. Sweet deal, right?!

BONUS: they also help to boost your immune system because they move the cell waste out of the lymph nodes in your neck and armpits, so your body can get rid of it.

These can be done as a warm-up before you play, during a practice or rehearsal break, after playing as a way to release any built-up tension, or just whenever you can feel tension in your neck or shoulders!


Avoid these exercises if you are already injured unless your medical doctor gives you the “okay.” If you experience any sort of pain while doing these exercises, STOP IMMEDIATELY. You can lessen the intensity (make smaller circles or lessen the range of motion for example) or just discontinue altogether.


These can all be done in the same setup.

  • You can do this seated or standing.

  • Lift your chest and tuck your chin slightly to help decompress the neck.

  • Let your hands and arms rest down by your sides.

  • Try shaking your hands out if you’re having a hard time relaxing.



  • Increases circulation in the upper body

  • Over-exaggerates common muscular holding pattern to help it release

  • Strengthens shoulder muscles

  • Helps to flush the lymph nodes in the armpits (i.e. IMMUNE BOOSTER!)

How to do it:

  • Inhale squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears. Keep the back of the neck long and your chest lifted!

  • Exhale powerfully through your nose and let your shoulders drop down (let gravity help you!).

  • Repeat 10-20 times.

To end:

  • Inhale, squeeze your shoulder up toward your ears, and briefly hold.

  • Exhale slowly releasing your shoulders down.



  • Increases circulation

  • Strengthens shoulder muscles

  • Opens the chest to improve posture

  • Helps to flush the lymph nodes in the armpits

How to do it:

  • Lift shoulders toward ears.

  • Slowly rotate the shoulders back, squeezing them together.

  • Bring them down and away from your ears

  • Then rotate your shoulders forward to round through the upper back.

  • Breathe long and deep as you circle.

  • Continue with the circular motion 10-20 times.

  • Repeat circling in the other direction.

To end:

  • Inhale, squeeze your shoulder toward your ears, and briefly hold.

  • Exhale slowly releasing your shoulders down.



  • Deeper and more intense movement than shoulder circles

  • Opens across the chest and upper back

  • Stretches down the arms

  • Helps to flush the lymph nodes in the armpits

How to do it:

  • Inhale, bring your hands overhead and reach up spreading the fingers apart.

  • Exhale, rotate your hands back and then down.

  • Inhale, rotate hands forward and up.

  • Continue with the circular motion 10-20 times.

  • Repeat circling in the other direction.

To end:

  • Inhale, reach your hands overhead and spread them wide.

  • Exhale, slowly bring your hands back down.



  • Increases circulation to the neck area

  • Loosens and opens neck muscles and cervical spine (vertebrae that make up the neck)

  • Helps to flush the lymph nodes in the neck

How to do it:

  • Inhale turn your head (keeping your chin parallel to the floor) and look out over one shoulder.

  • Exhale, and turn to look out over the other shoulder.

  • Repeat 10-20 times.

To end:

  • Inhale your head back to the center to end.

  • Exhale slowly.



  • Deeply stretches the sides of the neck and along the arm.

How to do it:

  • Keeping the back of the neck long, let one ear fall toward your shoulder.

  • You can either keep your hand resting on your thigh or reach it away from you.

  • Reach the crown of your head away from your fingertips and inhale and exhale deeply.

  • Try raising your hand up or down, or bringing your chin in toward your armpit. Play with it!

To end:

  • Bring your other hand to the side of your head and gently start to bring your head back to the center. Move slowly because you’ve just done intense stretching on the opposite side!

  • Now do the other side as you did the first.

Take a moment to notice any sensations happening in your shoulders and neck. Tingles, warmth, energy! These sensations mean that you've opened up and got your blood moving to those muscles!

These exercises are excellent to not only release tension and strengthen neck and shoulder muscles, but they also help you to start bringing more awareness to those areas in your body.

I challenge you to check in throughout your day to see how your neck and shoulders are feeling.

Are your shoulders tense and squeezing up to your ears (like shoulder earrings)? Lift your chest and soften your shoulders back and down.

Are you jutting your chin forward or dropping your chin to your chest? Move the neck gentle side to side as if to shake it out and soften everything down.

Just a little bit more mindfulness will do wonders for your tight neck and shoulders! Let me know if you try these or have questions about how to do them!

If this post resonates with you let me know below, and SHARE with anyone you think might need to read this!

If you have any questions, or topics you'd love for me to talk about send me a message and let's chat!

For more inspiration and wellness tips join me on Instagram @caitlinroseflute!

Hey friends, I'm Caitlin! 

I've been in your shoes and have walked for miles––now I'm here to help!

I'm a flutist and yogi who's here

to teach you how you can live a more fulfilling and sustainable musical life through yoga, meditation and mindfulness. 

Read my story here!

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