I struggled with excruciating neck pain for almost 5 years of my life. I spent thousands of dollars at a special neck chiropractor and boundless hot yoga packages.
After some time I came to realize that most of the pain was coming strictly from bad posture. At that time, I spent 40 hours a week on a computer. Yes, I had a stand and even a standup desk for a few years, but the pain never gave. I was doing endless hours of "gym" hot yoga but I wasn't focusing on retraining my back to a better posture. Yoga always made me feel wonderful while I was doing it and for about a day after but once I spent a couple days in my normal posture the pain would reappear.
I then realized that although the yoga was really my only escape to the pain, I needed to use these poses to better my posture on and off the mat. I started working on yoga poses specifically to stretch my shoulders and strengthened my back. Now, I also take time to simply sit in a correct posture, retraining my back to the new norm. Since incorporating this into my life, I found almost total relief and no longer run to the chiropractor on a regular basis.
Below are poses I used to stretch and retrain my back to a better posture.
Downward Facing Dog
A foundational yoga pose. Start in plank. This will show you how far apart your hands and feet should be. Lift your bottom up until you are in a 'V' shape, keeping your back flat, and working to straightening your legs. Pedal your feet to help ease the tightness you may find throughout your legs. Spread your fingers and dig them into your mat, bringing the pressure off your wrists. Unless you are flexible, you probably will not get your heels to touch the ground for a few times at attempting this. Be patient with your body. Hold until comfortable.
Uttanasana with Clasped Hands
You can do this with your legs together or separate. I usually do together as it helps stretch my lower back as well. Clasp your hands behind your back. Pull your arms down towards the floor, bringing your shoulders back, while puffing out your chest, then forward fold. Let your hands make their way towards the ground while keeping your hands clasped. Relax your neck.
There's lots of ways to do back bends. Here are a couple photos I found of myself doing them in the past. Shown in the first photo, try clasping your hands together above your head, keeping index fingers pointed. Work to bring your arms straight up by your ears and away from your face, this may be very difficult if your shoulders are used to be slumped, and bend back.
Another variation is to stand tall and raise your arms up by your ears, keeping shoulders down and relaxed, and then bend your arms into a goal post while arching your back. This feels like more of a stretch to the upper back. I do this one constantly during my at home yoga sessions. It just feels good!
Here is a relaxing shoulder stretch. Start in a child's pose and then crawl your hands up towards the front of your mat while bringing up your bottom. Stop when your legs are at 90 degrees. Rest your forehead on the mat.
This one is a little harder but it is gives you an intense shoulder stretch and is my absolute favorite. Lay on your stomach, bend your legs and reach your hands back to grab your ankles. Start kicking your legs to bring your chest up off the ground, feeling your legs pull your shoulders back. Work to keep your legs parallel with one another and not splaying off to the sides. Be gentle on your body with this one.
Sitting with Shoulders Back
I suggest this pose specifically to retrain your back. Sit cross legged and sit tall with your shoulders back. Close your eyes and imagine there is a string being pulled from the top of your head. Comfort in this pose comes with time.
The most simple of all poses! Lay flat on your back in a comfortable position but make sure that your shoulders are laying flat on the mat. This is a great spot to learn what it feels like to have your shoulders down and back.
Thanks for reading!
I'm open to any questions.