Shoulder Openers

With and from our shoulders we embrace what is dear as much as reject and withstand the onslaught, sometimes trying to accomplish both at the same time. Whether figuratively or literally, our shoulders bear most of the responsibility for our reaching out, lifting, creating and connecting.

Perhaps you drive for a living or maybe you type, but whatever your endeavor, by then end of a day, shoulders are often deserving of much loving attention. Here is a very practical shoulder routine for building both strength and flexibility in your shoulders. Please use care if undertaking the Four-Limbed Staff pose, or Chatturanga. Never lower your shoulders beneath your elbows, endeavor to keep your sternum closer to the ground than your upper arms, and always observe your body and sensations and respond in a caring way to all your body’s messages.

Use this sequence for self-care, rejuvenation and heart opening, and feel your energy and compassion radiate effortlessly and abundantly. For a quicker practice emphasizing strength and stability, or to adapt to some injuries, you may eliminate the vinyasa portion in 2-6 moving from pose to pose without the flow interspersed.

Things you might want to have handy: Yoga Mat, Yoga Strap, Yoga Block, Yoga Blanket, Bottle of filtered water

It is recommended to perform the warm-up before starting this routine.

 

Step 1: Cat Pose
Duration: 5-10x
Pose Review: Cat Pose


Focus on your shoulders and your rib cage moving above and below them, your scapula, or shoulder blades moving together around your spine, then sliding around your rib cage.


Step 2: Downward Facing Dog
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

Press your upper arms toward one another, lifting the outside of your armpits (this will draw your shoulder blades together) as you press on the thumb side of your hand.


Step 3: Plank

Duration: inhale - exhale - inhale
Pose Review: Plank Pose

Lower your heart towards the floor and slide your rib cage forward and between your shoulders, sternum low with belly lifted.


Step 4: Four Limbed Staff Pose
Duration: exhale
Pose Review: Four Limbed Staff Pose   

Always keep your shoulders elbow height or higher.  Lower only as far as you can keep your elbows in, shoulders back and breath steady.


Step 5: Upward Facing Dog

Duration: inhale
Pose Review: Upward Facing Dog

Offering your heart forward, maintain the strength of your arms, the openness of your chest and the support of your shoulder blades.

    
Step 6: Downward Facing Dog
Duration: exhale
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

Reach your legs back, hips back and up, and heart forward and feel the length and energy of your spine.
    
 

Step 7: Warrior 2
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Warrior 2

Feel your heart light and buoyant, supported by the strength of your lower body. Maintain your shoulders in an engaged, open and relaxed stance away from the ears without pressing them down, supporting the opening of your heart without constricting anywhere.


Step 8: Extended Side Angle
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Extended Side Angle

Feel your heart expand as you turn your entire chest upward and extend your top arm while maintaining strength in the shoulder.


Step 9-16:
Repeat 1-8 with Warrior II and Extended Side Angle on the other side.


Step 17-22:
Repeat 1-6


Step 23: Warrior 1
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Warrior 1

Feel your heart light and buoyant, supported by the strength of your lower body. Maintain your shoulders in an engaged, open and relaxed stance away from the ears without pressing them down, supporting the opening of your heart without constricting anywhere.


Step 24: Reversed Side Angle
Duration: 3-5 breaths

Spin your heart first so that your shoulders aren’t constricted in any way.


Step 25-30:
Repeat 1-6

    
Step 31-32:
Repeat 23-24, Warrior I and Reversed Side Angle, on the other side

 

Step 33: Plank
Duration: 3 breaths
Pose Review: Plank

Focus on the integration of your arm bones into your shoulder sockets and not reaching out too far.


Step 34: Side Plank
Duration 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Side Plank

Roll onto the outside of your right foot as you transfer your weight onto your right hand and foot and roll your heart open so that you are facing your right side, hips in line between your heels and head. Stack your feet and reach your left hand up. For more support, keep your left foot on the floor in front of you. For a greater challenge, take your left big toe in yoga toe lock and extend your left leg and arm together. Relax your shoulders by focusing on opening your heart from the support of your spine.


Step 35-6:
Repeat 34, Plank, and 35, Side Plank on the other side


Step 37: Easy Pose with Cowface Arms
Duration: 5 breaths each side
Pose Review: Easy Pose

Sitting in Easy Pose, reach your right arm up and bend the elbow so your hand rests on your back, between your shoulder blades. Reach your left arm down and back, bending the elbow so the back of your left hand rests along your spine, fingers reaching to or toward the outstretched fingers of your right hand. Interlock your fingers by bending  the knuckles. Use a strap to make this accessible at first, and press the backs of your hands into your back while maintaining easy spaciousness between your ears and arms.  Switch sides.


Step 38: Easy Pose with Eagle Arms
Duration: 5 breaths each side
Pose Review: Easy Pose

Sitting in Easy Pose, sweep your left arm under your right and bend both elbows. Cross your left wrist between your right wrist and face and place the palms of your hands togehter. Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades as you feel them slide around your body. Switch sides.


Step 39: Shoulder Stand

Duration: 5-25 breaths
Pose Review: Shoulder Stand

Recline supine on the mat. Pressing your elbows into the ground draw your knees in and lift your hips up from the ground, placing your hands on your low back. Extend your legs at an angle at first, toes over head and engage your core, extend through the inner legs and point and spread your toes. Stabilize your breath in your chest and slowly raise your hips over your shoulders until your toes are in line with your body.

Come out of this pose mindfully and slowly by engaging your core to lower your body with your legs extended overhead until your hips are on the ground. Hugs your knees in and rock back and forth a few time before extending into corpse pose.

 

Perform the relaxation sequence to complete this routine.


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