5 Poses to Alleviate Shoulder Tension

Yoga should help to ease the aging process, relieve rigidity in and around the joints, and keep the body as pain-free as possible for as long as possible. When we approach our yoga practice from a therapeutic perspective, we slow everything down, and hold poses for a long period of time. This allows the shape of the pose itself and the element of gravity to start to break down the layers of tension and restriction that have built up in the system. A therapeutic practice is slow, recuperative, deep body work that begins by relieving discomfort and pent-up tension. This article contains 5 yoga poses that I learned from the Kaiut Yoga method. These poses bring relief to the discomfort that is often caused from prolonged sitting, repetitive movement, and the stresses of modern day life (such as sitting while typing on a computer or looking at a cell phone). These poses have been designed to help you work through shoulder pain and injury, as well as general tension and stiffness. You can practice these poses individually or in sequential order. When approaching this sequence for the first time, hold the poses for a shorter amount of time. Once you start to unwind the layers of tension and resistance and become familiar with the poses, you can hold for a longer amrount of time. 

Props Needed:

  • Bolster

  • Strap

  • Block

  • Blanket


1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Begin by grabbing the ends of the bolster.


If the shoulders are open enough, then interlace the fingers underneath the head. 


If having the fingers interlaced under the head is fairly easy and produces little to no sensation, then interlace the fingers underneath the bolster.


Maintain for 5-7 minutes, switching the interlock of the fingers halfway through by bringing the opposite index finger on top.


2. Keeping the knees bent and the feet on the floor, push the bolster straight back behind you, extending the arms and straightening the elbows. Bring the backs of the hands onto the bolster, palms facing up. Press the fingernails into the bolster as you spread the fingers away from one another. Keep the hands shoulder distance apart. Maintain for 5-7 minutes. 


If there are no injuries or restrictions in the shoulders, then place the hands underneath the bolster, shoulder distance apart, palms facing up. The bolster will act as a weight on top of the palms. Spread the fingers open the skin of the hands, and press the fingernails into the floor. 


Keeping the left hand on the floor, lift the right hand a few inches off the floor. Keep the fingers spreading away from one another, elbows straightening. Maintain for 1-2 minutes. 


Place the right hand back on the floor, and then lift the left a few inches off the floor. Maintain for 1-2 minutes. 


Bring the right hand up to meet the left, lifting both hands a few inches off the floor. Keep opening the fingers and straightening the elbows. Maintain for 1-2 minutes. Release the hands, by slowly bringing your arms down by your sides. Rest for a moment with your arms by your sides, palms facing up. 


3. Grab your strap and fold it in thirds. Holding the strap, extend your arms up and over your head. Keep your knees bent and your feet on the floor. 


Extend and straighten the elbows, allow the armpits to open. Have the hands shoulder distance apart and pull the strap apart. Keep the back of the hands on the floor. Maintain for 1-2 minutes. Release, slowly bringing the arms down by your sides, palms facing up. Roll to the right side, sit up and then stand up. 


4. Bring your mat up against the wall. Place the bolster up against the wall. Face the wall, bring your hands onto the wall, and have your feet hip distance apart. Bring your right foot on top of the bolster, left foot underneath the bolster. 


Walk your hands up the wall, bringing the arms into a "V" shape. Spread the fingers and straighten the elbows. Bring your nose on or toward the wall. Move the tailbone down, engaging the abdominal muscles. Maintain for 1-2 minutes. 


Repeat on the opposite side. 


5. Bring your bolster longways onto the center of your mat. Place the block about a foot away from the bolster, with a folded yoga blanket on top. 


Sit on the blanket with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lie back onto the bolster and interlace your fingers underneath your head. 


If there are no restrictions or injuries in the shoulders, then try interlacing the hands underneath the bolster. 


Close your eyes, and with present awareness, meet any tension or rigidity in the shoulders and neck. Continue to notice where the stiff points are, and then use consciousness to relax and release tension. Maintain this pose as savasana (final relaxation) for up to 5-10 minutes.