FITNESS & DIET

9 Relaxing Yoga Poses to Release Shoulder + Back Pain

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Fix rounded shoulders and back pain with these gentle, easy yoga poses.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. There are four main muscles that support the rotator cuff, as well as the deltoid muscle, which covers the top and sides like a shoulder pad.

Our back is also complex, with both large and small muscles that support the spine. When we find ourselves in a constant state of tension and bad posture, both the shoulders and the back take a hit. The shoulders, chest, neck, lats, and hip flexors get tight from sitting and looking down, while the muscles of the back and rear part of the shoulders get weak. This leads to knots, tightness, and pain from imbalance.

Yoga is a great way to realign your back and shoulders while increasing flexibility throughout your entire body. Use these easy poses daily to release tightness and alleviate pain.

9 Yoga Poses to Release Shoulder and Back Pain

Child’s Pose | 8 breaths

This classic pose uses yoga blocks to open up the front of the shoulders while releasing tension in the lower back.

  1. Begin on the floor in a tabletop position. Place two blocks shoulder-width distance apart at the top of your mat.
  2. Bring your big toes together to touch and take your knees out wide. Sit your hips back onto your heels, then walk your hands forward to lower your chest down.
  3. Place your hands on the blocks. Let your forehead rest down and close your eyes. Hold for eight deep breaths.

Supported Fish | 8 breaths

In this relaxing variation of fish pose, two yoga blocks will help you to release tightness through the front of the shoulders, chest, and neck.

  1. To begin, place a block going lengthwise down the center of the mat. Make sure it is on the medium or lowest setting. This will support your back. Then, place another block going across the top of your mat on the same height to support your head.
  2. Gently lower yourself down so that the lengthwise block rests between your shoulder blades. Make sure that your hips are still on the ground.
  3. Adjust the top block so that it rests under your head like a pillow. Reach your arms out to the sides with your palms facing up. You can keep your feet flat on the mat or straighten your legs out long if it feels comfortable.
  4. Close your eyes and relax for eight breaths.

Supported Puppy Pose | 8 breaths

Release tightness in the lats, shoulders, chest, and triceps with this supportive pose.

  1. Start in a tabletop position with your hips stacked over your knees. Place both of your blocks down in front of your hands on the lowest height.
  2. Keeping your hips where they are, walk your hands towards the top of your mat, then place your elbows on the blocks. Lower your chest towards the floor and bring your forehead to rest on the mat.
  3. With your elbows on the blocks, bring your palms to touch and bend the elbows to bring your hands behind the nape of your neck. Allow your chest to continue lowering towards the ground and feel a stretch through your lats, shoulders, triceps, and chest. Hold for eight breaths.

Thread The Needle | 8 breaths per side

This pose helps to relieve pain and tightness in the muscles of the upper back and shoulders.

  1. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  2. Lift your right arm up towards the sky to feel a stretch through your side. Then slide your right hand between your left hand and left knee to “thread the needle.” Let your right shoulder and right side of your head rest comfortably on the floor.
  3. Walk your left fingers towards the top of the mat to straighten the arm. To deepen the stretch, roll onto your right shoulder a bit more.
  4. Hold for eight breaths, then walk your left palm back under your left shoulder and press back up to a tabletop. Switch sides.

Supine Twists | 8 breaths per side

Use this feel-good stretch to relieve tightness in the front of the shoulders and throughout the entire back.

  1. Start lying face-up with your legs straight down the mat.
  2. Hug your right knee into your chest, interlacing your fingers around the top of your shin, and keep your left leg straight. Take a deep breath in, then exhale to guide your right thigh across your body to come into a twist.
  3. Straighten your right arm out to the right and keep the shoulder close to the ground. Place your left hand on your outer right thigh to deepen the twist. Look over your right shoulder or keep your head looking straight up.
  4. Close your eyes and hold for eight breaths, then switch sides.

Low Lunge Twist | 5 breaths per side

Often times, the lower back hurts because of tight hip flexors. This pose relieves back and shoulder tightness by opening up the hips, shoulders, and chest.

  1. Begin in a high plank position.
  2. Step your right foot between your hands, stacking your knee above your ankle. Then lower your back knee to the ground and untuck the toes.
  3. Place a block inside of your right foot, then place your left hand on the block. Engage your abs and inhale to reach your right hand towards the sky to come into a twist. Keep your chin slightly tilted down towards your chest so that the back of your neck is long.
  4. Hold for five breaths, twisting a little further with each exhale. Then, release your twist and switch sides.

Bound Locust Pose | 5 breaths

This exercise stretches the front of the shoulders and strengthens the back muscles to help prevent and alleviate pain.

  1. Start lying face down on your mat with your neck long and your arms straight down alongside your body. Untuck your toes and bring your legs together.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your lower back. If this is difficult, hold the ends of a towel instead.
  3. Inhale to lift your head, chest, arms, legs, and feet off the ground, keeping a small bend in your elbows. Lift your hands up and away from your body. Keep the back of your neck long and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Hold for five breaths, then release.

Cow Face Arms | 8 breaths per side

This pose relieves tension and increases the mobility of the upper back and shoulders.

  1. Sit cross-legged on the edge of a yoga block. Hold the end of a yoga strap or towel in your right hand.
  2. Reach your right arm straight up. Bend the elbow to lower your right hand down towards your upper back.
  3. Reach your left arm behind your lower back to grab the other end of the strap.
  4. Walk your hands towards one another to see if you can get your hands to touch (if not, that’s ok). Keep your chest lifted and press the back of your head into your right forearm.
  5. Hold for eight breaths, then release the arms and shake them out. Switch sides.

Double V | 8 breaths per side

Relieve painful tension in the rear delts and upper back with this stretch.

  1. Lie down on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms.
  2. Turn your right forearm across your mat to point your fingers to the left side. Then, turn your left forearm across your mat so that your fingers point to the right.
  3. Then, walk both hands away from your body so that your arms cross completely underneath your chest. Rest your forehead on a yoga block so that your neck can relax.
  4. Hold for eight breaths, then switch sides by bringing your back forearm to the front.

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