Yoga Therapy for the Shoulders and Upper Back

Erica Fritch
Instructor Erica Fritch
Average: 4.4 (139 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


Carol Turcios 4 years ago

Hi Erica, could you please tell me what is the block size I need? I'm a beginner. Thank you so much.

Erica Fritch 4 years ago

Hi Carol,
You can use a standard size yoga block. They tend to come in 3 or 4 inch widths, and for the upper back backbend, I like the narrower size, because I have very narrow shoulders.
For the stretch with your elbows on the block, any size block will do, and as mentioned in another comment, you can even use a chair or a counter instead of a block.

I hope that helps!

Delster 4 years ago

Love this short sequence:) It is great for counteracting a day of feeding and carrying my gorgeous and very heavy baby. Thank you for sharing:)

Erica Fritch 4 years ago

I totally agree, Delster. I wish I had known these stretches when my Kiddo was a babe!

Sallycawdery 4 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 4 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 4 years ago

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

Erica Fritch 4 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 4 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 4 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!