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Best yoga poses to soothe and strengthen shoulders

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Tight shoulders and rounded shoulders are painful and can cause limited range of motion. If they’re not stretched, opened up and returned to normal movement you’ll find yourself doing less and less of the things you once enjoyed because they become hard to do and cause you pain.

There’s a great yoga posture, called “Downward Facing Dog” that works so well at releasing the shoulders everyone should do it. And today, yoga teacher Lauren Golen shows us two versions of this fantastic exercise.

Shoulder stiffness and pain can occur for many reasons. Sitting in a car or at a desk all day is one of them. Not moving your arms in every direction is another.  indeed, most people seem to restrict their arm movements to directly in front and slightly to the sides. But the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, which means the arms are structured to move in every direction. Not doing so leads to restriction of connective tissue which restricts ability to rotate the shoulders. Tight lower backs and legs also can affect the shoulders by virtue of throwing off posture.

Below, Lauren teaches us two ways to do the yoga posture known as “Downward Facing Dog.” The first uses a chair, which is great if you need a little help with balance or are experiencing hand or wrist issues. The second is the full way, with all fours on the floor. Let’s take a look.

Chair-assist downward facing dog

To begin, place your hands on the back of the chair, fingers wide open. Walk back as you extent your arms completely and stop when you are fully extended. Walk your feet back until they are stacked under your hips; just far enough so you can support your balance while pressing your weight down through your feet into the floor.

Press your hands down onto the chair and your knees back to engage your thighs. You want a slight bend in your knees so your quadriceps engage and strengthen.

Stretch your chin away from chest, crown of the heads forward.

Press the shoulders down but do not let the ribcage drop. Instead, bring it in toward the body. Pull your navel to your spine. By doing this you get the upper and lower parts of the scapula, shoulder.

Hold for a few nice, easy breaths to allow the shoulders to open up. When finished, slowly walk your feet back to the chair to allow that motion to raise your body back to upright position.

Full Downward facing dog

The full yoga posture of the downward facing dog has all the same elements as the assisted version, but is done on the floor.  To begin assuming the posture, get down on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Spread your fingers for a wider hand base and get up onto the balls of your feet.

Press your hips up and extend your arms to set you in an A-frame posture. Adjust your posture to achieve a nice long spine but either slowly walking your hands forward or stepping your feet backward. Try your best to keep your legs straight, or as straight as you can.

Now press down through your heel to engage your thighs, and press down your palms and shoulders while raising your ribs and pulling your navel in toward your spine.

Take a few breaths and relax into the posture.

When you are done, come up onto your toes, drop down to your knees and relax into Child’s Pose. Sit up after a few moments and relax into your day.

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