The shoulder – one of the largest joints in our bodies (source), – is also one of the most neglected parts of our bodies (source). In this post, I talked about how I developed some pain in my shoulder blades due to regular slouching and too much sitting. Well, one other thing I learned from my time in physical therapy is that strong and flexible shoulders are also important in preventing back pain.
That’s why I’m sharing these 5 beginner yoga poses for open shoulders. Our shoulders have such a wide range of motion that a lot of us never use. I mean, it’s rare for me to reach my arms overhead or behind me – and stretch my shoulders in the process – if I’m not on my yoga mat.
When you think about the 2 most common activities we engage in today – typing on a computer and typing on a phone – you’ll recognize that your shoulders stay in the same position for the most part. For an increase in shoulder health, we have to be intentional about moving those joints, just like any part of the body. So here are some beginner poses to get you started on you healthy shoulders journey.
5 Beginner Yoga Poses for Open Shoulders
Thread the Needle Pose
How To: Begin in tabletop pose. On an inhale, lift your right hand up and on your exhale slide it down on the floor behind your left hand. In the same breath, lean forward until your right shoulder and the right side of your face is resting lightly on the mat. On another inhale, lift your left hand up and behind you, and on the exhale, rest is your left palm softly on your right thigh. To come out, bring your left hand back to the mat and push your upper body up and back to kneeling position. Don’t forget to repeat on the other side!
Benefits: Stretches your shoulders, neck, upper back and core muscles.
Cow Face Pose | Gomukhasana
How To: Begin in a seated position with your legs bent on the left side of your hips. Bring your left leg forward and cross it over the right leg so that your knees are stacked on top of one another, and your left foot is resting by your right hip. On an exhale, bend your left hand behind you so that the back of your hand is resting on your back with your fingers point up towards your neck. The reach your right hand up and bending from your elbow, bring your right palm to connect with your left palm. If comfortable, interlace your fingers here. Ensure that both shoulders are relaxing down your back and away from your ears. To come out, slowly release your hand first, and then stretch your legs out in front of you. Then repeat on the other side
Benefits: Deeply stretchers your shoulders, chest, hips and knees.
Extended Puppy Pose | Uttana Shishosana
How To: Begin in tabletop pose and as you exhale, slowly walk your hands out in front of you. Making sure your hips remain directly above your knees, begin to lower your forehead to the mat. With each exhale, feel your heart sink closer to the mat. To come out, slowly walk your hands back towards your chest and return to tabletop.
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders, chest and spine muscles.
Standing Forward Bend with Yoga Lock | Uttanasana III
How To: Begin in mountain pose. On an inhale, lift your hands up, and on your exhale hinge forward from your hips to bring your upper body towards your legs. Interlace your fingers behind you and let your arms relax over your head and towards the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and let your arms relax towards the mat. To come out slow lift your body back into mountain pose. Remember to keep your belly drawing in towards your spine.
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders, chest, lower back and hamstrings.
How To: Begin seating in a cross legged position. On an inhale, stretch both arms out in front of you, and then cross your right arm above your left arm and wrap your forearms around one another to bring your palms together. Lift your elbows up to shoulder height while pulling your shoulders down and away from your ears. Ensure that your fingers are pointing straight up and that your spine is elongated. To come out, slowly unwrap your arms and then repeat on the other side!
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders and upper back.