Yoga is effective for reducing shoulder pain, reducing stress, boosting immunity, improving circulation and mental focus, and increasing vitality. I know this to be true. A long time ago (2004) in a far-away land (New York City) I had a vision that teaching Yoga would be a quiet, peaceful, and tranquil career in guiding mindful souls to spiritual enlightenment. Fast forward to the reality of braving rush hour and crossing freeways to share my passion – to inspire an awakening within my students and help them access their highest self.
We all build careers, nurture families, foster friendships, finance lifestyles, and juggle myriad responsibilities. It’s stressful, especially when multi-tasking has become a standard way of life. One of the places in the body where we habitually hold this stress is in the shoulders and upper back. Hours of hunching over computer screens and cell phones can lead to a buildup of shoulder pain, tightness, stress, and tension.
The burden of this unending cycle can feel overwhelming. Releasing our mental, emotional, and physical stress helps us maintain and even thrive amidst life’s challenges. These days, more than ever, we need the peaceful and unifying power of Yoga to empower our practice well beyond the physical asana — to penetrate our heart, our soul, and our lives.
Here are some of my go-to shoulder savers for shoulder pain.Garudasana: Eagle pose
- Standing tall, bring your arms in front of you at shoulder height, palms turned upward
- Cross the right elbow over the left, then bend your arms
- Bring the palms up to 90 degrees with the backs of the hands touching
- If it is available to you, try touching your palms together
- Mindfully create a stretch through healthy opposition by pressing the shoulder-tops away from the ears as you lift the elbows
- Continue to stretch the back body by guiding the forearms away from you
- Repeat on the other side, left over right
Benefits: The energy of eagle arms moves the rhomboids, posterior deltoids and the top and back of the trapezius through a range of motion different from our habits, allowing us to stretch, relieve shoulder pain, and release tension.
Awareness Tip: This pose assists in introspection. With our hands blocking our external drishti (gaze or focal point) we are guided to turn our gaze, and thereby our attention, inward.
Natarajasana: King Dancer pose
- Standing on your right leg, bend your left knee, and reach for the inside of your foot with your left hand
- From here, lift and expand the upper chest and reach your right arm upward
- Hinge from your standing right hip and hug the muscles of your standing leg and hip in for support
- While continuing to lift the front of the chest, create strength by imagining the foot is trying to escape the hand, engaging a deeper stretch across the front of the shoulder and along the hip flexor
- Repeat on side 2
Benefits: This is the ultimate posture of expansion, balance, and self-expression, which are important qualities for building vitality. When we engage the muscles while in the pose, it trains the core and encourages joint stabilization.
Awareness Tip: Dancer offers us an opportunity to express ourselves; as we expand the body physically, we expand into the truth of our being, celebrating everything we are in this moment.
Balasana: Child’s Pose with Arms Extended
- Kneeling with your knees slightly wider than your hips, drop your hips toward your heels
- Hinge forward and lengthen your spine
- Reach out to rest your palms and forehead gently on the mat (support as needed)
Benefits: Child’s pose is an opportunity to rest, allowing us to release the frenzied energy of multi-tasking and tension. It calms the nervous system and allows a passive stretch of the lumbar spine, particularly the upper back, and helps to alleviate shoulder pain.
Awareness Tip: The shape of child’s pose evokes a gesture of honoring through the prostration and bending forward. One way to reduce stress is through recognition. Here, we honor ourselves in a physical gesture of self-love.
About the Author
About the Author:
Elise Joan is the co-creator of the best selling, inaugural Yoga program for Beachbody, and a top lifestyle/Yoga influencer for LIVESTRONG. She travels the world leading international retreats, and teaching all around the globe on the festival and event circuit. She’s been a headline teacher for Wanderlust, and a Yoga & lifestyle contributor for dozens of publications. (To find more poses to relieve shoulder pain, read the full article here in LA Yoga magazine.)