Guest Post: 6 Yoga Poses For Tight Shoulders

Since I started Crossfit, I’ve learnt a fair bit about my body. There were a few things I had already become aware of though – such as my tight shoulders. This has been a slight issue when doing overhead lifts; nothing I can’t manage but an area I would like to work on…

So I had a chat with Adrianna and asked her to share with us the best yoga poses for tight shoulders…

It has been said that the shoulders represent our ability to carry our experiences in life joyously, and we only make life a burden by our attitude.

As a yoga teacher, a large number of my clients have office jobs and consequently, rounded shoulders. The rounding of shoulders represents stress and symbolizes the carrying of burdens of life, with a helpless and/or hopeless attitude.

Sometimes clients are aware of the extra tension being held in this area, whilst the majority of people need to shift the focus into opening and surrendering stress carried in the shoulders.

This major joint can also represent changes in direction life and the ease of such movements.

So whether you are a yogi, runner or cross-fitter, I believe we can all benefit from these few simple shoulder opening poses, both physically and metaphysically.

Eagle Arms

– can be added to various standing asana such as Warrior 1 (W1), Warrior 3, Crescent Lunge

Find a comfortable seat.

Wrap right arm over left arm and aim to bring the hands to pray position; taking an available grip to you. Begin to draw the elbows in line with the shoulders. Pause and breathe.

Then, keeping the elbows where they are, begin to move the hands away from the face.
Soften the shoulder, and eye gaze and breathe into the opening between the shoulder blades.

Stay here for 5 – 10 long, deep breaths. Unwind and repeat on other side.

Cow Face Arms

– traditionally taught with leg variation in cow face pose. Can be added to seated forward folds

Find a comfortable seat.

Taking the left hand to earth behind you, inhale and reach your right arm to the sky. Bend the right (top) elbow and reach behind the head as far down the back as you can.

Simultaneously bend the left elbow (bottom arm) and take your left hand up the back and towards the right.

**Options – to use a strap and shorten the distance, slowly allowing the shoulders to open. (See image 2)

Breath into the opening beneath the right shoulder and tricep; and across the front and side of the left shoulder.

Stay here for 5 – 10 long, deep breaths. Unwind and repeat on other side.


Begin in a high plank position (top of a pushup). Slowly lower on your forearms, aligning the shoulders over the elbows. (See image above)

Clasping the hands to create a strong foundation, begin to walk the feet in lifting the hips high (like in downward facing dog)

Eye gaze is towards the hands, then slowly drawing the chin into chest to lengthen the back of the neck. Eye gaze finishing between the legs.

Soften shoulders, and broaden collar bones and breathe into the shoulders and back of the heart.

Stay here for 5 – 10 deep breaths.

Forward Fold with Clasp

– can be added to wide legged forward fold.

Stand feet hips distance apart, clasp hands behind the lower back back, and take a big inhale to open chest.

* Option to use a strap instead of clasping the hands (as above)

On exhale, soften knees, draw the belly in and fold forward. Allow the head to fall toward the ground gently releasing the neck. Make space for the neck by gently moving the shoulders away from the ears.

If you feel comfortable, bend one knee and then the other, getting more into your shoulders. Maybe gently shake the head “no” and then nod the head “yes.”

Stay here for 5 – 10 deep breaths.

To come out, slowly press into the feet, release the hands to the earth and roll up to stand.

Thread the Needle

Photo Credit: Thanks to Julie of juliestewartfitness.wordpress.com

Begin on all fours, wrist beneath the shoulders, knees beneath the hips, and keep your back toes tucked under for more stability.

Reach right arm towards the sky and then thread underneath body, allowing right shoulder and temple to release to the ground. Allow left hand to stay where it is, or crawl it a bit to the left over to your head; alternatively for opening across the front of the left shoulder reach the left hand for the inside edge of your right thigh.

Stay here for 5 deep breaths.

Repeat on other side.

Reverse Prayer

Sitting comfortably, float arms down to either side of body and, bending elbows, reach arms behind back. Press palms together in a prayer position on spine and reach hands as high up spine as feels good. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.


Follow my adventure 




  1. Kathleen Uhran
    September 15, 2014 / 15:30

    LOVE LOVE LOVE all of these poses for myself and for my clients! We can carry so much stress in our shoulders. My favorites are thread the needle and eagle arms…Great post!

    • Elle Linton
      September 18, 2014 / 21:30

      Thanks Kathleen! Glad you will find them useful! Let us know if there are any other particularly problem areas in the body that you think we should feature next! 🙂

  2. laura @ scribbles and sass
    September 10, 2014 / 14:50

    dolphin always gets me! from writing and having a desk job, my shoulders love to slouch forward.

    • Elle Linton
      September 10, 2014 / 21:27

      yes! doing dolphin was one of the first times I realised how tight my shoulders were! …one of those things you have to work on to see improvements!

  3. Matilda Iglesias
    September 10, 2014 / 11:02

    I love all these, but I can't do reverse pray, upside yes, but that way, argh no. forward fold with clasp has to be one of my favs though.

    • Elle Linton
      September 10, 2014 / 21:26

      I also can't do reverse prayer! You can hold opposite elbows until you become flexible enough! Or get someone to help put you in the position! 🙂

  4. happylifehealthylife.com
    September 10, 2014 / 04:01

    These are fantastic, thanks for sharing!! I work really hard at keeping my shoulder back, but I'm double jointed on both sides and I often find myself waking up in some really wonky positions that leave a lot of tightness! I'm going to work some of these into my morning routine. 🙂

    • Elle Linton
      September 10, 2014 / 21:26

      awesome 🙂 hope they help! …I think having an awareness of your own posture is the first positive step in creating improvements! 🙂

  5. Lauren @ Breathe Deeply and Smile
    September 9, 2014 / 13:37

    I have THE tightest shoulders all the time. Crossfit and lifting do it, as well as carrying stress and tension there. DEFINITELY trying these moves out!

    • Elle Linton
      September 9, 2014 / 15:31

      YES! Stress and tension…that is me! All of mine goes straight to my shoulders! been like that for as long as I can remember! Let me know what you think x

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