yoga certificationBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

The regular practice of Hatha Yoga is a great way to relieve shoulder pain. Pain in the shoulders often comes from the somatic holding of stress and tension in the musculature in that area. Shoulder pain can also develop from the misalignment of the spine and shoulder bones.

Repetitive activities, such as long hours of driving, or working while hunched over a computer console on a daily basis, can contribute greatly to shoulder pain. Additionally, pre-existing ailments and injuries can also cause shoulder pain, which sometimes need surgical intervention. For example: a rotator cuff tear will not heal without surgery, but satisfactory function and reduced pain, might be achieved without surgery.

In such a case, therapeutic Hatha Yoga will help; but whatever factors caused the initial tear must be eliminated. If the tear was caused by a required repetitive motion at work, and a person cannot change his or her line of work, then surgery may be a viable option. Yoga training cannot change one’s job, but it may teach a person to move without causing further injury.

The regular practice of Yoga will help to release stress and tension in the shoulder area, while repositioning the body in proper alignment. The combination of cutting back on repetitive activities that cause shoulder discomfort, and a consistent practice of Yoga techniques to relieve shoulder pain, is also a viable solution. These changes will be the most effective non-surgical way to maintain health and ease pain in the shoulder area. The following are Yoga techniques to release tension and ease shoulder pain.

Hands over Head

This exercise is a basic Yoga warm-up (Palm Tree Variation) to realign the shoulder blades and spine. It is wonderful for releasing deeply held tension around, and behind, the shoulder blades. Start with your feet hip width apart, standing at the head of your mat. With your inhale, slowly raise your arms parallel to the floor, at shoulder height, with your palms facing each other.

With awareness, move your arms back into your shoulder sockets a few inches. You will feel the shoulder blades lying more firmly on the back. Hold for five seconds, and then gently (if comfortable) raise your arms straight up into the air, while maintaining the realignment of the shoulder blades. You will not be able to raise your arms as high as usual. The height of your arms does not matter, the “flatness” of your shoulder blades against your back is what will release the deep-seated tension behind the shoulder blades and realign your spine. Repeat this exercise two to four times. When you are finished, you will feel a sense of ease and expansion in the shoulder area.

Raising Arms Overhead with a Belt

This exercise is another very simple Hatha Yoga technique that is great for releasing shoulder pain. Stand on your Yoga mat with a belt or towel in hand. Grasp the belt or towel with your hands approximately two to three feet apart, depending on your level of flexibility and the size of your skeleton. With your in-breath, slowly raise your hands up, over and behind your head.

Keep your arms fairly straight, but do not lock your elbows. Only go as far as is reasonably comfortable. With your exhale, bring your arms back down in front of your body. Repeat five times. This therapeutic Yoga technique will help to release tension in your shoulders, and arms, while exercising and lubricating the shoulder joints.


As an option – These two exercises could also be incorporated into Warrior I asana practice.  Never practice any exercise that causes pain within the joint. If you feel pain within the shoulder joint, you are pushing too far, or the exercise must be eliminated altogether. Any movement in Yoga, which causes pain within a joint, is usually not helping. Always consult with your physician or specialist to find solutions. Hot and cold therapy, acupuncture, massage, and medication, may also be viable solutions for pain reduction.

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