Yoga Therapy: Tight Shoulders

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Disclosure: Participate at your own risk, Lilac Lotus Yoga and all affiliates are not responsible for any personal injury. The information and suggestions in this article are not intended to be taken as medical advice. Always treat your body with kindness and consult your physician before beginning any new exercise routine.

Purpose: to help release tension and open up the shoulders

Remember: when doing these poses you should never feel pain, although you may feel some discomfort, mild discomfort is needed for growth

Frequency: 2-3 times a week for 20 minutes

Modifications: a bed pillow is used with this sequence to help support you

Seated Neck Stretch

Neck Side Stretch: Hold for 3 Deep Breaths ea. Side

Benefits: This pose very gently opens up the muscles in the neck, which helps to loosen tight shoulder muscles as well.

  1. Find a comfortable seat, if sitting on the floor isn’t comfortable, try this stretch while sitting in a chair

  2. Inhale, then exhale drop your right ear to your right shoulder

  3. Reach your left arm out to make the stretch deeper

  4. Hold for 3 deep breaths

  5. Inhale, then exhale drop your left ear to your left shoulder

  6. Reach your right arm out to make the stretch deeper

  7. Hold for 3 deep breaths

Seated Neck Stretch

Chin To Chest Pose: 5 Deep Breaths

Benefits: Like the previous pose, this one opens up the neck muscles and can stretch the spine all the way down to the tailbone. Also helps to drain built up lymph and fluid from the neck and head

1. From a comfortable seat, take both hands & interlace the fingers behind the head

2. Drop your chin to your chest and let the elbows be heavy.

3. Round your back and try to touch your elbows to your knees for a full spine stretch

TIP* If using the hands behind the head is too intense, try just dropping your chin to your chest and holding still

Cow Pose
Cat Pose

Cat & Cow Pose: 6 Rounds of Both

Benefit: Cat & Cow pose counter each other and stretch the spine from head to tail!

1. From seated, bring your legs around into a table top position

2. Make sure your knees are under your hips, and wrists under your shoulders

3. Find Cow pose by dropping your belly down and lifting your head & tail (inhale)

4. Find Cat pose by rounding your back and tucking your chin (exhale)

5. Move through 6 rounds slowly

TIP* If you want to change the feel of this stretch, try rocking your hips from side to side in both poses

Puppy Pose

Puppy Pose: 5 Deep Breaths

Benefit: Puppy Pose offers a deep stretch in the shoulders and the upper back, all while opening up heart center and the throat.

1. From Table pose, drop down to your forearms

2. You can stay here, or reach your hands out to make the stretch deeper

3. Rest your head on your pillow, or if it touches the mat, that's OK too!

4. Try to arch your back and keep your hips high

5. Hold for 5 breaths or less (if the stretch is too intense)

Child's Pose

Child’s Pose: Hold for 10 Deep Breaths

Benefits: This pose brings your parasympathetic nervous system online and as a result, allows your body to relax into a rest-and-digest state. This pose also relieves the hips and low back of tightness. Reach your arms out to stretch your shoulders

1.From a table top position, push through your hands and send your hips back towards your heels. The hips might actually touch your heels, and they may not

2. Lengthen through your spine and bow your head to the Earth. If your forehead doesn’t touch the mat, you might consider supporting it with your block or pillow

3. Relax the chest so it rests comfortably on your thighs

4. Arms may reach energetically toward the top of your mat, or relax them softly at your sides

5. Breathe and bring your awareness to each part of your body that is connected with the Earth.

6. Stay here for at least 10 deep breaths

TIP** The farther you reach your hands forward, the more intense the stretch in your shoulders will be.

Supported Fish Pose (with pillow)

Supported Fish Pose: 5 Deep Breaths (or less)

Benefit: Fish pose counters puppy pose. It compresses the upper part of the spine and opens up the heart. This pose often creates feelings of openness and relief.

1. From seated, grab your pillow and fold it in half

2. Hold onto the pillow as you lean back over it (shoulders on the highest part)

3. Let your head hang and stretch your neck

4. Keep your feet flat on the mat and knees bent for a more gentle stretch

5. Stay here for a few breaths

6. Slowly rise by bringing your chin to your chest and using your hands to press up

Seated Shoulder Stretch

Seated Shoulder Stretch: 3 Deep Breaths ea. side

Benefit: This pose stretches the shoulder blades and helps to reverse the effects of sitting hunched over most of the day and bad posture.

1. From a comfortable seat, reach up and grab one elbow

2. Try to pull your elbow behind your ear

3. If this feels good, try leaning over to the side to make the stretch deeper

4. Hold for about 3 breaths on each side

Seated Shoulder Stretch w/ Forward Fold

Shoulder Fold: 3 Deep Breaths (x3)

Benefit: This pose stretches the shoulder blades and helps to reverse the effects of sitting hunched over most of the day and bad posture.

1. From a comfortable seat, reach behind your back and interlace your fingers

2. Just this is a stretch on its own!

3. To make it deeper, lean forward and try to lift your hands up to the sky

4. If you like, take your pillow and fold it up to rest your head

5. Stay here for 3 deep breaths

6. Repeat 3 times

Breathe for a few moments, center yourself and begin the rest of your day


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