I was sold on shoulder stretches when a pain I had in my right shoulder for years vanished in a couple of days with just two yoga poses, the downward dog and reverse prayer pose.
Not only that, I more felt relaxed and loose than I had in years and my posture improved.
In this article, I will share these and other yoga shoulder poses you can practice regularly to keep your shoulders healthy and happy.
If you feel tightness or soreness in your shoulders and want to improve your posture and mobility, read on.
How Yoga Improves Shoulder Health
Yoga can be a great way to prevent and relieve shoulder problems by stabilizing and strengthening the joints and muscles. It also improves blood circulation, flexibility, and reduces inflammation.
Yoga is a balanced mixture of dynamic and static poses, which makes it indispensable for shoulder health. In this “go and hustle” and “be on the move age”, static holds are not popular, which is a shame, they are hugely beneficial for stability, strength and even muscle growth.
Most yoga styles have these poses in their practice, so if you decide to join a class you will receive the benefits of dynamic and static stretches and poses.
9 Yoga Shoulder Poses to Release Tension and Build Strength
Later in this post I give some tips on how to practice yoga shoulder poses safely and effectively.
But let’s look at some of the most beneficial poses first:
1. Downward-Facing Dog
I do this classic pose daily. It stretches and strengthens the entire shoulder girdle, as well as the arms, back, legs, and core. It also helps to decompress the spine and relieve tension in the neck. It’s an excellent pose to warm up if you doing sports and martial arts like Brazilian Ji Jitsu, which involve a lot of shoulder use.
Start on your hands and knees, with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back, straightening your legs as much as you can without locking your knees.
Press your palms firmly into the ground and rotate your upper arms outward, creating space between your shoulder blades.
Draw your chest toward your thighs and reach your heels toward the floor.
Keep your head relaxed between your arms, gazing at your navel or between your legs.
Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then lower back down to your hands and knees.
2. Eagle Pose
This pose opens the front of your shoulders and chest. You can do it standing or in a seated position.
Extend your arms in front of you at shoulder level. Cross your right arm over your left arm and bend your elbows.
Bring your palms together or touch the backs of your hands.
Lift your elbows up and away from your chest, feeling a stretch in your shoulders.
You can also lower your chin to your chest to stretch the back of your neck.
Hold the eagle arms pose for 5 breaths, then switch sides.
3. Cat Cow Pose
This is one the most simple but effective yoga shoulder poses to release tension in your spine and shoulder:
Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
Inhale and arch your back, lifting your chest and tailbone up. Look up slightly. This is cow pose (first picture above).
Exhale and round your back, tucking your chin and tailbone in. Draw your navel in and press the floor away with your hands. This is cat pose (second picture).
Repeat this movement for 10 breaths, synchronise your movement with your breath.
4. Extended Side Angle Pose
The extended side angle pose is a yoga posture that stretches the side of the body, opens the chest and shoulders, and strengthens the legs. Here are the steps to do it:
Start in warrior II pose with your right foot forward and your left foot back, parallel to the back edge of your mat.
Your right knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms should be extended to the sides, parallel to the floor.
Exhale and reach your right arm down to touch the floor outside your right foot. You can use a block or a cushion to support your hand if you can’t reach the floor comfortably. Keep your left arm reaching up to the ceiling with fingers pointing, in line with your right arm.
Turn your head to look up at your left hand and open your chest to the left. Feel the stretch in your left shoulder as you reach up. Keep your right knee over your right ankle and press your left heel firmly into the floor.
Hold for 3 to 5 breaths, then inhale and come back to warrior II pose. Repeat on the other side.
5. Forearm Plank Pose
The forearm plank pose is a great static exercise to strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture. It also helps to tone your arms, shoulders, back and legs.
Here are the steps to do the forearm plank pose correctly:
Start on your hands and knees on a mat or a soft surface. Make sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
Lower your elbows to the mat and place them shoulder-width apart. Interlace your fingers and press your palms together.
Extend your legs behind you and tuck your toes under. Lift your hips and knees off the mat and straighten your body into a line from head to heels.
Engage your core muscles and squeeze your glutes. Keep your neck neutral and gaze down at the mat. Don’t let your hips sag or your back arch.
Hold this position for as long as you can, breathing deeply and evenly. Aim for at least 30 seconds and work up to a minute or more.
To release, lower your knees to the mat and rest in child’s pose.
On top of the shoulder benefits, the forearm plank pose is a simple but effective way to challenge your whole body and build a strong core.
6. Dolphin Pose
From downward facing dog, lower onto your forearms, keeping them parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart. Press the floor away with your forearms and lift your hips up as high as you can. Keep your legs straight or slightly bent if needed. Hold this pose for 10 breaths.
7. Puppy Pose
This pose is not only one the best shoulder opening yoga poses, like yoga mudrasana, it also gives your spine a nice stretch as well.
Start on your hands and knees, with your hips over your knees and your arms extended in front of you.
Walk your hands forward until you feel a stretch in your shoulders and chest. Keep your hips lifted and press them back slightly.
Lower your forehead or chin to the floor or a block.
Hold this pose for 10 breaths.
8. Reverse Prayer Pose
This yoga shoulder pose stretches the front of the shoulders, chest, and arms. You can do it standing or sitting, which ever way you do it keep your spine straight.
Bring your arms behind you and join the palms of your hands together in a prayer position at the center of your back.
If this is too hard, you can hold a towel or a strap between your hands instead of joining them together.
Lift your chest up and draw your shoulder blades together.
Hold this pose for 10 breaths.
9. Cow Face Pose
Cow face pose is a yoga posture that stretches the hips, shoulders, and chest. It can also help you relax and release tension in your upper body. It can also improve your posture and spinal alignment. To do this pose, follow these steps:
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
Bend your left knee and bring your left foot under your right hip.
Bend your right knee and stack your right knee over your left knee. Your feet should be on opposite sides of your hips.
Reach your left arm behind your back and your right arm over your head.
Clasp your hands behind your back, or use a strap if you can’t reach them.
Lift your chest and draw your shoulders down and away from your ears.
Hold for a few breaths, then switch sides and repeat.
Why You Need to Do Yoga Shoulder Poses
The shoulders are one of the most complex joints in the human body, consisting of eight muscles that work together to allow a wide range of motion. However, they are also prone to injury and stress from everyday activities, such as lifting, carrying, typing, or driving.
And if like me you weight train or practice boxing, you can be sure you will experience some kind of pain sooner or later. If you ignore it, it can lead to stiffness, chronic pain, inflammation, even rotator cuff tears.
Also if you look at people who are angry or sad, they have hunched, rounded shoulders. There is wisdom in grandparents telling you to stand straight. It improves your mood and makes you instantly more attractive.
Take These Safety Precautions Before You Begin the Yoga Shoulder Poses
– Warm up your shoulders before doing challenging poses by doing simple shoulder rolls and arm circles.
– Pay attention to your alignment. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your wrists or elbows when you do poses like plank or downward-facing dog.
-Avoid shrugging your shoulders up to your ears or rounding your upper back.
–Breathe deeply and evenly throughout each pose, breathe into the tension to release it.
– Listen to your body and respect your limits. Don’t force yourself into a pose that causes shoulder pain or discomfort.
-Use props like blocks, straps, or blankets to modify or support your poses as needed.
-Take breaks whenever you feel tired or overwhelmed.
You can enhance the affects of the poses I’m about to show you by using a CBD oil or creams. To find out more on how to use them go to: CBD and Yoga are the Perfect Match for Stress Relief and Relaxation.
Yoga Shoulder Poses Conclusion
The shoulder is prone to injury and tension because it is a multi faceted joint that we use a lot.
After doing the yoga shoulder poses you will feel relaxed and because many of the poses work the entire body and stretch the spine, they will also improve your overall health, energy and mood.
The yoga shoulder poses in this article are not only useful for when your shoulder is tense or injured but they also prevent injury by keeping the joint flexible and lubricated. They will also improve your posture. I found them a huge benefit for martial artists and weight lifters like myself.
These poses will strengthen the muscles, especially the downward dog pose.
Do the stretches regularly and you will avoid injury and feel loose and relaxed.