Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Slumpy computer posture, improper strength training, and mechanical misalignments can all lead to a world of tight shoulders and tired upper back muscles. The solution: yoga stretches for shoulder pain. These movements reduce stiffness, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion.
This sequence of stretches for shoulder pain can also reset your shoulders for more aligned posture and better breathing. Stretching the shoulders also opens the door for more bendy upper-body asanas.
See also: A Sequence to Perfect Your Posture
5 yoga stretches for shoulder pain
We begin this sequence by leaning into the dysfunction of the shoulder and rounding into the common slumpy posture. Then, we gradually open up the muscles around the shoulder joints to find freedom.
Props needed: strap, wall, 2 blocks, yoga mat
Embryo Child’s Pose
This stretch gently eases shoulder pain. Begin kneeling with knees together, hips to heels, arms behind you with palms facing up. Allow your spine to round over your thighs. Place your forehead on the mat or a block and let your shoulders round forward. Take some deep breaths. Stay here for up to 3 minutes.
Downward-Facing Dog at the wall
Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall at about hip height. Walk your feet backward, creating an “L” shape with your body, with your hips over your ankles. Lengthen your sides and lift your armpits away from the floor while melting your heart toward the ground. This position will gently stretch the shoulders to keep them pain-free. Stay here for 5 rounds of breath.
Standing strap pec stretch
For this shoulder stretch, you’ll need a strap (or belt, resistance band, or bathrobe tie). Hold it in front of you about three feet or a meter wide.
Lift your armpits toward your ears, hollow your armpits to plug your arm bones into the shoulder socket. Draw your shoulder blades down your back. Keeping tension on the strap, slowly lift your arms overhead and behind you as far as is comfortable while getting a stretch. Then bring your arms back out in front of you. If you’d like to link this movement to your breath, inhale as you take the strap behind you. Then exhale to release it forward. Repeat 5–10 times.
Restorative chest stretch on blocks
Place two blocks on the ground: One longways on the medium height, and one on the tallest height a few inches behind the first block. Sit on your mat facing away from the blocks. Slowly lower yourself onto the blocks first aiming your upper thoracic spine (between your shoulder blades) onto the first block and your head on the second block.
To obtain a stretch for the shoulders that doesn’t cause pain, wiggle around until you find a place that feels supported. Use your hands to lengthen the back of your skull, bringing your chin slightly down. Stretch your legs out long. Release your arms out to your sides, palms facing up. Stay here for up to 10 minutes.
See also: Unlock Your Backbends With Yoga Blocks
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Lie on your belly. Bend your knees and reach back to grab the outsides of your ankles. Lift your armpits to lengthen your sides, then kick into your hands. Expand your chest forward. Draw your throat back in space. Note: Try widening your feet and knees apart more than you might think at first and notice whether that helps your back feel more spacious. Stay in this pain-relieving shoulder stretch for 3–5 rounds of breath.
More yoga for shoulders: