Yoga Therapy for the Shoulders and Upper Back

Erica Fritch
Instructor Erica Fritch
Average: 4.4 (133 votes)
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This short shoulder sequence is for everyone - yoga practitioners, office workers, weight lifters, new moms, musicians, and everyone else who uses their hands and arms throughout the day. These therapeutic exercises are not yoga poses, but will help you with your asana practice and will generally give you more space and mobility in your shoulders. Practice regularly to bring ease to your body at work and at home.

Equipment: Block
Style: Yoga Therapy, Yoga for Back Care


Sallycawdery 3 years ago

I've suffered with a painful back an shoulders for years and this has really helped after only a few sessions. I'm now doing this every day when I get home and the usual end of the day pain is decreasing. Absolutely great thank you

little-c-yogi 3 years ago

This is great! I didn't think I would feel so loose after only ten minutes. I really struggle to cross my elbows over each other (my hands are miles apart), is this just a flexibility issue? Thanks for a great video :)

Terry87571 3 years ago

Erica, I'll definitely being doing this one again. Thank you for the wonderful stretches!

Erica Fritch 3 years ago

Happy to hear it!
I'm glad to know I am contributing to the shoulder stretching, heart opening, upper back relief of people everywhere!

Ebuddy 3 years ago

First, I can't get my elbows together, let alone into eagle arms. Is there any modification or prop I could try? Also, I have similar pain to erinlein, but on the left side - happened coming out of child's pose :( . The standing modification helps greatly - thank you!

Erica Fritch 3 years ago

Hi Ebuddy,
One of the things that can help get your arms to cross a little further up above the elbows (which is the secret to getting the grip in this arm position) is to use momentum. Fold forward, to bring your chest out of the way, then really swing your arms fast to get higher up in the crossing. Keep your thumbs pointing toward your face. Then try one of the following three modifications:

First is to cross your arms as close to your elbows as you can, as if you were going to go into the full arm position, but then take your hands to opposite shoulders, like you are giving yourself a hug. Your hands will be on opposite shoulders. Walk your hands down so they are below the tops of your shoulders, if possible (onto your deltoids and upper arms), and then start to creep your fingers back towards your shoulder blades. It is possible (but not necessary, of course) to wrap your fingers around the inner edges of your shoulder blades in this positon. Do the same with the opposite arm/elbow on top.

Second is to go into Eagle arms as much as you can, then have a friend help *gently* press your wrists towards each other. You can also do this yourself using a wall to bring the top arm's forearm closer to the bottom one.

Third, is a version more common in fitness and weightlifting circles. Take your right arm straight across your body, use your left hand or forearm to pull it close to your chest. Don't twist with this, just pull the arm across to stretch the outer upper arms.

Hope those all (or at least one) help! Hard to know what the pain in your back is, but I hope you get it figured out and work on it to relieve that issue!
Keep stretching those shoulders!

Ebuddy 3 years ago

Thanks for the modification - now next time I have Eagle pose in class I won't feel stupid flapping my arms :-). Started Stronglifts over the holidays, and deadlifts seem to be helping the back. Got into child's pose and got back out without pain - hurray!

GBill 4 years ago

I do weights and find that I get quite tense in my shoulders. I recently discovered this short class and have been using it after my training sessions, which has been really good. Thanks!

erinlein 4 years ago

I thought at only 11 minutes this wouldn't be enough to get me going in the morning but it did! Thanks!

I have one problem though -- I am having some pain along the right side of my spine lately, mid-back, and when I did the last position with my elbows on the foam roller (in my case), it was so tense and almost unbearable. Is there another exercise or adaptation that will help me work through this issue? I think it's from twisting around in my sleep too much lately.

Erica Fritch 4 years ago

Hi erinlein,
I'm glad you found some benefit from just a short practice. It's amazing what a little bit of movement can do for us!

As for the pain in your back, one modification I can offer is to do the movement in a standing position. I like to use the kitchen counter, and sometimes use the desk at work to get the same stretch in. It takes some of the other requirements out of it so that you can focus on the engagement you are going for and can release more fully into the stretch.
And, as always, practice, practice, practice! Have faith and keep at it. If you can add this to your day every day (and even multiple times a day when you get in a routine of using a higher, easily accessible counter) chance can happen pretty quickly!

Good luck!