Shoulder-Opening Yoga Exercises


Tight, sore shoulders often are a side effect of busy lifestyles, which may include anything from sitting at a desk for 8 hours to hoisting groceries into your car. To give your shoulders a break and ease the tension, you need only roll out your yoga mat and dedicate yourself to regular practice. The following shoulder-opening yoga exercises, held for three to five breaths each, will stretch and strengthen your shoulders, improve their mobility and perhaps even make you feel happier as you become pain-free.

Downward-Facing Dog

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your fingers spread apart. Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Curl your toes under, and exhale as you push up into an upside-down “V” shape. Firm up your outer arms as you press into the bases of your index fingers. Broaden out your shoulder blades and draw them toward your tailbone, keeping your head between your shoulders as you breathe.

Down Dog Dancer

  • From Downward-Facing Dog, toe-heel your feet together until your big toes touch. Inhale, lift your right leg in the air and bend your knee. Lift your right hand off the floor and grasp your right foot from the top. Equally distribute your weight into your left hand and left foot. Kick your right foot into your hand to arch your spine and stretch your chest and shoulders. Return to Downward-Facing Dog and repeat on the left side.

Eagle Pose

  • Again from Downward-Facing Dog, walk your feet to the top of your mat and bring your big toes to touch, with your heels slightly parted. Inhale and stand up as you stretch your arms above your head, with your biceps framing your ears. Exhale and wrap your right arm under the left, crossing at your elbows and then again at your wrists, and press your palms together. Bend your knees and ground down through your left foot. Lift your right leg up and cross it over your left knee. Point your right toes toward the floor or rest them lightly on your mat for support as you balance. For an added challenge, wrap your right foot around your left calf. Unravel your arms and legs and repeat on the left side, with your arms and legs reversed.

Lord of the Dance Pose

  • From a standing position, inhale and reach your arms overhead. With your weight on your left foot, bend your right knee. Reach back with your right hand and grip the inside of your right foot, keeping your thumb facing up to allow your right shoulder to roll open. Ensure your knees are together. Keeping your torso upright and your tailbone pointed toward the floor, kick into your right hand. Create a “C” curve in your spine and press your inner thighs toward one another. Stretch your left arm forward, and work toward making your right thigh parallel with the floor. Place your foot back on the floor and repeat on the left side.

Extended Puppy Pose

  • Come down to your hands and knees and walk your hands forward a few inches. Rest your forehead on your mat, or on a blanket, and relax your neck. Press the tops of your feet into your mat and exhale as you press your hips back toward your heels. Maintain a slight curve in your lower back as you press your hands into your mat. Keep your arms active throughout the pose, with your elbows lifted off of your mat.

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