Yoga Poses for Shoulders and Backs

3 poses to help relieve muscle and joint pain

You Asked

I was involved in a car accident about 16 months ago, and am now in the long process of healing. The worst of my injuries is a nagging upper back and shoulder injury. Physical therapy and medication has only taken me so far and I wanted a more natural approach, so my doctor suggested yoga as a great way to stretch out those sore muscles and heal. Are there any particular restorative poses you can recommend for the upper back and shoulders? —Jenn

Kate Answers

I love your enthusiasm and your commitment to the healing process. Here are three beautiful, restorative poses that will help in the upper back and shoulders. Enjoy and learn from your healing process.

Supported matseyasana (supported fish pose)

This pose opens the chest and extends the thoracic spine (which begins at the bump at the back of your neck). It’s intended to bring muscles back to their natural position and in time, tone, which is great for your recovery.

1. Grab two towels or blankets.
2. Roll them up, making one thicker than the other.
3. Lie flat on your back and place the smaller of the two towels underneath the bra-strap line.
4. Extend your legs and let the feet fall out naturally.

5. Place the thicker rolled-up towel under your head but be careful not to overextend the neck by lifting the chin too high or dropping it too low.
6. Now for blissing out: rest each arm at about a 45-degree angle away from hips and place palms up, allowing your shoulders to drop open. 

Simply breathe and relax. Let that be your mantra! “Breathe, relax.”

Salamba balasana (supported child's pose)

1. Place blocks (or books) underneath the two ends of a bolster and come into Child's Pose, with your torso supported by the bolster.
2. Slide your arms underneath the gap between the bolster and the floor, sliding each hand toward the opposite elbow.

If the forearms or elbows don't touch the ground, fill in the space with towels or blankets so that you are supported from the elbows to the fingers. Magic.

Garudasna (eagle) - arm variation only

A good one to do when sitting at a desk or in a chair when you have free time.

1. Sit tall in your seat, stretching your arms forward so that they are parallel to the floor and then spread your shoulder blades wide across the back of your torso.
2. Cross the arms in front so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows.
3. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other - or as close to as possible.
4. Now draw the elbows away and up in front of the face and at the same time draw the shoulder blades down the back so as not to hunch or create more tension in this area.
5. Close the eyes and breathe into the space between the shoulder blades.

Stay for ten breaths and then swap arms.

So Jenn - enjoy, bliss out and I wish you a healthy recovery.


More about Kate

Lululemon Bondi ambassador and yoga teacher, Kate teaches vinyasa style yoga and emphasizes the connection between breath and movement, infusing a natural blend of fun, light heartedness and strength into her sequencing, always encouraging her students to be mindful in their practice and nurture themselves.

Kate’s big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is to create the world’s most viewed wellness blog; a rich source for knowledge and inspiration – helpful tools for living more conscious and happy lives.

Her favourite lululemon manifesto quote: Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment.

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