LarryD517

Open shoulders...

11 posts in this topic

I'd like to open my shoulders so I can do reverse namaste (along with other poses)

During my practice sessions, I do an exercise that Candace highlighted on her blog a while ago (lay face down on ground, put one arm out to side, twist over by pushing up with other hand). I also try to extend arms greatly and open shoulders during down dog (sort of pushing torso down).

I've tried to do cow face pose and my hands are about three feet away from each other (exaggeration...but not by much!). In that pose, I use a strap to pull down the top hand and then pull up the bottom hand.

I also do 'thread the needle', dolphin, eagle and bow

Are there any others to try?

Edited by LarryD517
mimisouth and afriske like this

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What a great list of good shoulder openers already!

My shoulders get tight easily, so I find these shoulder stretches helpful for opening up:

Shoulder stretch with a strap (make the strap short enough so you never bend your elbows, but long enough to work on flexibility)

Archer arms

Edit: Apologies for the repetition, didn't realize "archer arms" were the same as "cow face arms"

Edited by yogafire
acknowledge repetition
afriske likes this

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These are all so useful to keep in mind as my shoulders also get tight.

Other poses I find helpful are: extended puppy pose, fish pose, criss-cross (or any other pose involving the clasping of hands), one - legged king pigeon, plow pose, and malasana with a bind (or any binding pose!).

I also enjoy incorporating these into my general Vinyasa. So with high lunge you can take eagle arms, cow face arms, or clasp hands in warrior to make a humble warrior. That way I kill two birds with one stone, if you will.

Hope this helped!

Edited by afriske
yogafire likes this

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This will sound super weird but I have always struggled to clasp my hands together in cow face (though seem to be ok with reverse prayer), that is until I did tricep exercises with dumbells (I have awfully weak arms so only use 5-7 kgs max). Hold high above the head, and bring down behind your head and up again. Do for 12 or so reps. One day I was doing this exercise and was starting to strain so decided to stretch and noticed with shock I did it with ease. I just tried then after quite a few days since my last arm exercises and sure enough, I'm a good inch away! 

EricaKaye and YogaByCandace like this

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Larry, you could try a drop back, but of course not the full version to start. The learning steps are very effective for opening the shoulders and upper back which are the same. And strong practice of the basics will serve you very well in the future. We all start at the beginning.
 
Start standing probably less than an arms length away from a wall, maybe even much less, facing away from the wall. Then reach up in the air with the hands and lean back to touch the wall. I like to put my hands in prayer first, reach the hands upward without moving them much and reach the chest up towards the hands. And then take the arms overhead.
 
The action is to lead with the hands.
 
The chest is always reaching up, strong extension of the spine, never hinge or dump into the lower spine.
 
The feet are shoulder width with the outside edges of the feet parallel. Strong legs, strong inward rotation of the thighs. Do not let the feet splay out or you will hurt your lower back.
 
Don’t let the arms or elbows splay out either.
 
Breathe and let the breath do the work.
 
This is a very difficult pose and some very important things to do correctly so just take it very easy to start. Just make it a gentle stretch to begin with and work at it very cautiously. Don't think of it as a drop back, just a nice stretch that you can do any time. Perhaps someday start to use the wall to walk the hands down the wall, you should always be able to come back up without much effort.
 
If you find a teaching video please let me have a look first. I did try to find a video and saw a lot of unsafe things happening. I found this very upsetting. Have you ever heard people say ‘I hurt my back doing yoga’ well now we know why.
 
My response may not seem to match your question but it does (plus many other good things). Have a look at Jasmine’s reply and she is doing something similar.
 
Edit Addition: I finally found a very well taught video (thank God – expression) It may seem too advanced but the basics are all there no matter what stage of the pose. You just have to start leading with the hands sooner than the woman in the video since your limit in the pose is sooner than the video. Instead of reaching for the floor think of reaching up and back towards the wall.
 

Ashtanga Yoga, Drop Backs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I7Ts25Kqjs

 

Edited by Anahata
scottcraft likes this

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My all-time favorite for opening the shoulders/chest is the third photo you see here. If you're really tight, do the second one. Play around with where you put the arms. Somewhat parallel will really, really open the chest/shoulders and will be excellent for reverse prayer. Stay for a solid 2-3 mins at least, even longer if you can handle it.

scottcraft likes this

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great tips...thanks!

Stay for a solid 2-3 mins at least,

That was a typo. I assume you meant to say 2-3 seconds, right? (don't answer, I really don't want to know :) )

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This thread is awesome...thanks to all for some great advice. Really appreciate the time you all have spent finding solutions to my question.

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I'm going to try some of the things mentioned for my shoulders. I've discovered not only do I have tight hamstrings, I have tight, well, everything!

mimisouth likes this

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I would like to add to what I wrote above (make it even longer!)
 
Maybe we think of our shoulder as only the shoulder joint. Muscles like the trapezius, pectoral and many others cover nearly the entire upper torso Upper Body Muscles (the image doesn’t show all muscles). And the upper torso is connected to the lower torso. So we have to think bigger when we are trying to work with the shoulders.
 
In downdog try bending the knees a lot. To put the effort into the upper body – shoulder area, starting an upper back bend.
 
This is a nice one for the desk. Take your right arm straight up overhead. Bend at the elbow so the forearm lies across the top of the head (do the best you can). Take the left hand and gently pull the right elbow for more stretch. Try to extend the right elbow up towards the ceiling. When you breathe deeply notice how the ‘shoulder stretch’ effects all the way down to the hips. Someday the arm will come behind the head but do not strain the neck.
 
Grab both elbows with the forearms over the head and stretch upwards and back.
 
Try taking your forearm behind and across the middle of your back. Maybe grab your other arm. Do the best you can. Then allow the breath to lift the chest up. When the chest lifts notice the shoulder open, try to get the shoulder to rotate backwards slightly, all those parts are connected.
 
Constant repetition is important. Find a comfortable place in the stretch and let the breath do the work. You will also find it helps tremendously for sitting at a desk all day. Doing these intensely once a week will not be helpful and probably only cause injury.
 
I am not sure if Candace will make it back here to reply, her link is using Yin principals, 3-5 minutes or longer in a pose, try to relax the muscles and GENTLY (this cannot be emphasized enough) work the joint. If blocks aren’t comfortable use a bolster. This link will show a video using a bolster and many modifications. The video on the right side called “Saddle Performed” the man in the video is one of the top Yin teachers in the world. It says ‘if the knees are tested too much’ then find a more comfortable position for the legs like Candace’s picture or other options in the video. It is OK to have the legs wide in a gentle version of this pose. But if you decide to try a deeper version someday it is critical to bring the legs into alignment, parallel. But always be mindful of the lower back regardless of the version. 
 
The pose with the wide legs is called Supta Baddha Konasana
The pose with the thighs parallel is called Salamba Supta Virasana
 
scottcraft likes this

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