Shoulder anatomy is complex. The ball-and-socket joint is responsible for such a wide range of motion, and much of your daily routine – driving, holding your kids, playing tennis at the club, cooking dinner – is possible due to high functioning, flexible shoulders.
Shoulder injuries can lead to long-lasting problems, so it’s important to be proactive. Yoga is a great option, and anyone can do it. To start, try these five yoga poses to improve shoulder flexibility:
- Cow face pose
- Modified forward bend
- Dolphin pose
- Upward plank pose
- Thread-the-needle pose
Cow Face Pose
Sit and extend your legs in front of you. Slide your left foot under your right knee, cross your right leg over the left, and stack the right knee on the left (inside of the left knee touches the outside of the right knee). Try not to lean in either direction.
Now, reach your right arm out so it’s parallel to the floor and your palm faces the floor. Bend your elbow and rest your forearm into the hollow of your back. Slowly work your wrist up between your shoulder blades.
Reach your left arm to the opposite wall and flip your palm to the ceiling. Bend your elbow up and behind your head, reaching for your right hand in the hollow of your back. If possible, hook your fingers and gently pull. Repeat and reverse the arms.
Modified Forward Bend
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Move your arms back past your hips and clasp your hands behind you. Bend at the waist, dropping your head to the floor, and stretch your clasped arms out over your head. Don’t force anything if it hurts. Stay in that position for several breaths, then come back to stand.
Start on your hands and knees. Hold opposite elbows, then put your forearms on the floor in front of you. Look at the ground and stretch back, straightening your legs. Pull your chest toward your feet. Mindfully separate your shoulders and breathe deeply.
Upward Plank Pose
Sit and extend your legs in front of you. Put your palms on the floor a few inches behind your hips with fingers facing forward. Breath in and press into your hands and feet, lifting your body off the ground and dropping your head behind you. Press your hips and chest upward.
Start on your hands and knees. Slide your right hand between the opposite hand and knee until your arm lays flat. Your shoulder and the side of your head should be comfortable on the ground. Now, lift your left arm straight up with your palm facing the wall. Breathe for a few counts, then slowly come back to your starting position. Repeat on the other side.Pain is very real, and it keeps you from living your life, but yoga remains a great tool to stretch, and hopefully prevent injury and the pain that comes with it. Practice these five yoga poses to improve shoulder flexibility and avert any painful recovery time. As an added bonus, yoga is known to reduce stress and anxiety, and we could all use a little less of that.