7 Shoulder Opening Yoga Poses to Increase Mobility & Strength

Amber Scriven
7 Shoulder Opening Yoga Poses to Increase Mobility & Strength

Having tight shoulders can cause them to become weakened over time, and weak shoulders could lead to neck strains or other upper body injuries.

A lot of shoulder tightness is born from living a busy life. It might be due to lifting heavy objects, hunching over a desk all day, or carrying around small children, but whatever the cause there are a few shapes you can utilize to undo the tension.

Increasing your range of motion in this complicated joint, and the strength in the tissues surrounding it, can alleviate pain, stress, and future neck or back issues. So let’s get started ASAP!

Increase Shoulder Flexibility

Increasing your range of motion in this joint requires stretching out all the surrounding tissues. Try these:

- Extended Puppy Pose

Image credit: Alissa

This heart opener is super scrummy for the front of the shoulders, pectoral muscles and upper back. If the stretching sensation is too much then put your head on a block, but if you want a little extra you can put your hands on blocks and straighten out your elbows. Make sure you are pressing your thighs towards each other so that your lower back is safe.

- Eagle Arms

Image credit: Andrea Taylor

You can use this variation in any shape that makes sense (Warriors and Chair Poses are good options). This stretches the tissues between the shoulder blades and across the deltoid muscle on the upper arm to help increase flexibility in the shoulders.

- Thread the Needle

Image credit: Sanàa Jaman

Practice Thread the Needle pose for a gentle opening in the shoulders. For a deeper stretch, you can also try Knot Pose by facing down on the floor, threading your arms underneath you so they cross under your chin. These shapes stretch the backs of the shoulder ball and the trapezius muscle on the upper back. 

- Peddler’s Posture

Image credit: Sanàa Jaman

Another chest and upper back shape to stretch the shoulders is a forward fold with your hands clasped on your back or overhead. This will open the front of the shoulders and chest to reverse that hunching that happens over the course of the day. Try moving your arms slightly to one side and turning your gaze to the opposite side a few times over to massage away any knots in your upper back and trapezius muscles.

Strengthen Shoulders

Keeping the tissues surrounding a joint strong is a great way to maintain joint health – especially joints as complex as the shoulders. Here are a few ways to do it:

- Plank Holds

Image credit: Sanàa Jaman

So great for strengthening your shoulders – not just high plank, but low plank too! Just make sure to tip all the way forward on your toes in plank before you lower halfway down to hold Chaturanga, as this will protect your shoulders and lower back. If you notice your hips are lower than your chest, put your knees on the floor to prevent straining your back.

- Dolphin

Image credit: Sanàa Jaman

Holding Downward Dog on your forearms for 5–10 breaths is a great way to strengthen the tissues around your shoulders, and increase flexibility! Keep lifting your shoulders away from your ears to prevent leaning too far forward into the stretch, and squeeze your elbows towards each other to align your shoulders. Practice using your core to lift up and out of the forearms, and as you strengthen and open up, your forearms will become parallel.

- Side Plank

Image credit: Sanàa Jaman

This is a really great way to strengthen the shoulders when held for a minimum of 5 breaths on your hand or forearm. If it feels like too much you can put one knee on the ground. If you want more, you could lift the top leg.

These poses provide a great place to start reducing shoulder tension and opening into a deeper range of motion. Alternating between both strengthening and flexibility postures will make a big difference to your body over time. Have fun and be safe.

Image credit: Alissa