Yoga for Shoulder Pain Relief: Poses and Practices to Enhance Mobility and Strength

Yoga for Shoulder Pain Relief: Poses and Practices to Enhance Mobility and Strength

August 26, 2023


Shoulder pain can be a persistent and frustrating issue that limits your ability to perform everyday tasks. While there are various methods to alleviate this discomfort, utilizing specific yoga poses to help improve shoulder strength and flexibility is one option. Yoga offers a combination of controlled stretching, strengthening, and mindful breathing that can significantly contribute to relieving shoulder pain and improving overall mobility.

Physical therapists use personalized exercise prescriptions to guide you through recovery and avoid further injury. For folks who do yoga, having a skilled physical therapist help improve specific postures and guide you in modifications can allow you to continue your practice without further injuring an already painful body part.

The therapists at Good Life Physical Therapy are specialists in diagnosing and treating injuries of the musculoskeletal system and are passionate about getting you back to your mat, back to the gym, and living your best life without pain.

The Power of Yoga for Shoulder Pain:

1. Stretching and Flexibility: Yoga involves a wide range of poses that gently stretch and open up the muscles around the shoulders and upper back. These stretches can help to release tension, increase flexibility, and improve the range of motion in the shoulder joint.

2. Strengthening Weak Muscles: Many yoga poses require you to support your body weight, which helps in strengthening not only the muscles directly involved in the pose but also the stabilizing muscles around the shoulders. This added strength can provide better support to the joint, reducing the risk of pain and injury.

3. Improved Posture: Yoga encourages proper alignment and awareness of your body’s positioning. By practicing yoga regularly, you become more conscious of your posture, which can reduce strain on the shoulder muscles and promote a healthier alignment.

4. Mind-Body Connection: Yoga places a strong emphasis on connecting the breath with movement. This mindfulness not only reduces stress but also allows you to become more attuned to the signals your body is sending, enabling you to identify areas of tension and address them.

5. The Breath: Breathing is important in shoulder mechanics because the scapula, or the shoulder blade, is a floating bone that is balanced on and secured to the ribcage. Image a boat floating on water tied between a few ropes and anchors. Ideally the boat stays still between those ropes, but if the water level drops down, the ropes become slack and the boat can move forward and backwards more. In our body, the breath fills our lungs like balloons and assists in providing a good length-tension relationship in our muscles so that the shoulder blade is stable, but mobile – a delicate and important balance!

Yoga Poses for Shoulder Pain Relief:

1. Child’s Pose: This gentle resting pose stretches the shoulders, upper back, and spine, providing relief from tension and discomfort.

2. Thread the Needle Pose: This pose helps open up the shoulders and chest, releasing tension in the upper body and working on controlled movement of the shoulder in and out of external rotation.

3. Cat-Cow Pose: This dynamic sequence warms up the spine, shoulders, and neck, promoting flexibility and mobility of the back, shoulders, and neck.

4. Downward Dog: This iconic pose stretches the entire backside of the body, including the shoulders and hamstrings, while promoting circulation.

5. Eagle Pose: This balancing pose targets the upper body, improving both flexibility and strength in the shoulders and stretches the rhomboids and encourages activation or strengthening of the lats.

6. Warrior Two: This warrior pose keeps the shoulders activated and ideally uses the full rotator cuff and Latissimus muscles to create a broad wingspan, strengthening the muscles around the shoulder while keeping a long and mobile neck.

Tips for Incorporating Yoga into Your Routine:

1. Don’t Aim for Instagram: Not every body is flexible and balanced – don’t over stretch your body get into the shapes of all the yogi’s on Instagram. Yoga is a practice because we do it every day, for ourselves with our own bodies. It is not a performance that should look any specific way. While it might be hard, try to ignore the “look” of your poses and concentrate more on how they feel.

2. Start Gradually: If you’re new to yoga, begin with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration as your flexibility and strength improve.

3. Listen to Your Body: Respect your body’s limits and avoid pushing yourself into poses that cause pain. Discomfort should be avoided on any injured body part. If you’re not sure what’s causing pain, stop! If it’s *hard* or *stretching* these can be ok, but any pinching, zinging, pulling, or stabbing pain is a message to stop immediately – and find a skilled physical therapist or yoga teacher to help you differentiate between what you should do to safely practice and what you think you can do.

4. Use Props: Yoga props like blocks and straps can assist you in achieving proper alignment and avoiding overstretching which can cause short or long term injury.

5. Get Help: Ask for guidance from your instructors, get one on one instruction from a skilled, trained, and experienced teacher, and when in doubt reach out to us at Good Life Physical Therapy for preventative help and to recover from injuries.


Yoga offers a holistic approach to addressing shoulder pain by combining gentle stretches, strengthening exercises, and mindfulness. By incorporating specific poses into your routine and practicing consistently, you can enhance your shoulder mobility, improve strength and stability, and reduce discomfort.

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