On Wednesday, we explored the ways in which the scalenes affect our movement, breath, stress response, organs, intuition and joie de vivre. I also mentioned that much of our high stress life and habitual movement patterns can lead to some seriously irritated and tight scalene muscles. The good news is there are some simple Yoga Tune Up practices to offer balance and relief. Included at the bottom of this blog is a fabulous video offering a sequence that will both strengthen (remember, tight doesn’t always mean strong) and stretch your scalenes. To maximize the stress relieving capacity of a scalene release, finish with a few moments practicing the Full Yogic Breath as described below.

Full Yogic Breath– Come into a comfortable seated or lying position, and let your eyes close, shifting your focus to your internal experience. As you inhale allow your belly to inflate, then your ribs expand, and finally the breath moves up into your chest. Slowly exhale, and let everything release and relax. Continue this pattern for at least 5 breaths, but enjoy it as long as you like.



Enjoyed this article? Read Shift Your Stress in 3 Minutes

Sara Kay

Through her creative integration of Pilates, Yoga Tune Up, Yoga, and meditation, Sara Kay helps her clients transform obstacles into possibilities. Whether the perceived limitation is time, age, ability, etc. Sara will help you discover the strength and power just waiting to be called out of you! Her teaching combines an extensive knowledge of the body, creativity, deep connection to intuition, and a passionate spirit; resulting in sessions that are innovative, educational, and transformative. Sara continues to expand her health and healing "toolbox" with the study of Chi Gong, Reiki, essential oils, and yearly journeys to Hawaii. In private sessions, group classes, and specialty workshops students always leave feeling rejuvenated and empowered in mind, body, and spirit.

Leave a Reply

32 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
31 Comment authors
Alicia Lowe-Downes

this is a great exercise for me, as my scalenes are tight but they are also weak from 6 whiplash incidents so my neck is often hyper-extended. This brought me instant relief to my to my neck and shoulders


Ahhh, thank you! I have many people on my massage table with tight scalenes and consequent shoulder pain. I will be happy to pass this along to them.


Wow! This was fantastic, and gave instant relief! Thanks for sharing a great video!

Rebecca Tamm

I have recommended this stretch to so many of my clients and it’s one I do regularly myself. So simple but incredibly effective, especially for those who suffer from head forward posture.

Amanda Burchert

Very relaxing with instant release. A great PNF exercise for triathletes.

Steven Adams

It took a few tries, but I think I understand how to do the demonstrated stretches now. I have always experienced neck stiffness and soreness. These stretches definitely feel therapeutic. Will continue to experiment with them. Thanks!

Morgan Balavage

I love the value of resistance stretching in opening up muscles that we constantly and subconsciously engage like the scalenes.


This blog and Jill’s Neck Stretch Exercise for Pain Relief video was a very good followup after learning how to release scalenes using the Tune Up Balls and understanding how it affects our breathing in Level 1 training today.

Erika Belanger

Great exercises… I could see myself using those before a headstand practice!

Jen Montes

My Osteopath does this scalene stretch for me at first the results was like a miracle. Now I think I need to just practice myself more. I will def incorporate this into my self care practice.


Not long ago, I’ve started employing Yogic Breath exercise and found it very effective for calming and relieving pain in the trapezius and scalendula muscles. I absolutely love ‘Then No is Yes’ neck stretch and plan doing it everywhere I go! I’m happy to add these effective neck exercises to my arsenal for myself and share it with my students and anyone I know is having neck issues. Thanks, Sara, for this helpful post.

Christine Phillips

My scalenes have been aggravated lately – great quick neck release! thank you. I aspire to be a better cyclist and so neck care is integral to my performance.


Great idea for facial stretching. PNF works great to gain flexibility. I know a lot of people experience pain when adding the resistance… Any modifications to this or would you just do the stretch and no contraction if someone experienced pain?

joanna yates

Great follow up to the previous article on Pain in the next to breath and bliss. I experience Scalene work with Dineene today in YTU class in NYC. So great to read about them following the practice!


I am used to a number of neck stretches but not so many specific strengthener, this is a good simple one as it is true that tight muscles might still need some strengthening.

Sara Teddy

My scalenes are already chronically knotted & pulling on my ribs. It is some horrible annoying pain. I have a great doctor now that gives me prolotherapy injections which have healed other body parts & rid me of headaches. Yoga Tune Up has helped me a lot too…as long as I consistently do it…even just 10 minutes neck & shoulders.

Just make sure you do yoga & take care of your posture & stress so you don’t get chronically knotted painful scalenes.

Austin Way

I love the video to give a great visual image and description of the objective of this sequence.

James Chritton

Thank you for the video. I like to think anything connected to the head is an easy opportunity to build stress. Mine need some major work, thanks

Nicole Nadeau

tight doesn’t always mean strong… I can appreciate a solid one liner! supple is what we are aiming for… great follow up from your previous post. thank you!


Interesting video. I like the suggestions for creating the resistance and that in turn will create the heat needed to release as it does in other areas during yoga. I will def share this with friends.


Really fantastic article on the scalenes and vagas nerve. I had no idea this nerve is so interconnected with our fight or flight response. Would love to see any additional videos that might help address tightness in the neck and jaw.

Patricia Lamontagne

I guess what I like most about Yoga Tune Up is that those exercises don’t take a whole bunch of time to do and they are so effective. This one will be a keeper too !


Fantastic tutorial on an accessible and “do anywhere” exercise on creating space in the neck muscles. Another reason why yogic breath is so powerful.


My neck pain is always bothering me. Sometime it becomes to headache. I always stretch by moving my head. I felt that these ways on this post are stretching in different places on neck. It definitely effect to my neck problem. I can do these whenever wherever I have time.

Georgia Lowe

So glad I followed up on the scalenes intro to discover this eye-opening exercise. I’ve been leading my students in passive-static stretches along these lines but strengthening against the hand resistance is a whole new ballgame. I just discovered some serious asymmetry in myself! This may become a staple.

Alfredo Figueroa

Great video! I often times think about stretching when I feel tightness… but as Sara Kay mentions, tightness can also mean weakness. I definately need to explore a balance between toning and stretching, especially in this area of my body.


This is a wonderful post!!! I have had chronic neck issues for many years, and I know that when my stress levels are high, my neck pain flares up. It makes perfect sense that my psychological state is affecting my physiological functioning during that time (fight-or-flight response breathing). While I do spend time caring for my physical symptoms during the flare-ups, I never once employed the use of full yogic breathing in order to re-set my central nervous symptom and calm down the scalenes. I am grateful to have a new technique to combat this nasty pattern of mine!

Cat Murcek

Thanks very much, Sara, for this helpful post. I have chronic neck issues that come and go, and even suffered a scalene impingement last year that sent pain down my whole right arm. I have a number of things that help me manage the pain including acupuncture, self-massage, and Alexander technique, but am always looking for more things to add to my arsenal for myself and for my students. I will definitely add the exercise you included to my repertoire!

joanna yates

I have always had to work with neck tension. I tweaked something years ago in Headstand in Yoga, and now choose not to practice it, as the pressure seems to weaken the muscles in my neck causing it to lock up or twinge where i have limited mobility for a few days. I think these exercises about could assist in this work to strengthen the muscles in the neck.

However, when I turn left or right, then look up, I feel lots of crackling around my C4 and C5. I’m unsure how to roll this out.


Wow – so simple but so very effective. This is where
so much of my stress lives. This is now a daily for me !

Anne-Renée Hudon

Excellente façon d’éduquer nos participants.

Erik Love

This is a wonderful post. I keep most of my stress in my jaw and my neck. Using these techniques will absolutely aid in my tension release as well as adjusting my positioning during sleep because I’m a stomach/side sleeper.