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While there are many stretches to open the shoulders, below are a few we typically do in a yoga class.  Pictures and step by step instructions included.

 

Begin by warming the shoulders up.  Maybe just some arm circles or shoulder flossing shown below.

 

Start with feet about shoulder width apart, take a strap, belt or dog leash and take the arms out into a wide v shape.  Reach arms overhead, you will only reach all the way behind you if your shoulders will allow.  Never force it and you should be able to do it without bending the elbows.  I repeat DO NOT FORCE anything.

 

 

From here you can begin to bind your hands behind your back, a strap is a great option here as well.

 

After you release this fold come down to hands and knees/ table top position.  Keep your knees under your hips and walk your hands forward, arms extended is the goal but you may need to bend elbows at first.

 

The goal in puppy pose is to get your forehead to the mat and eventually your chin and chest.  This pose is also referred to heart melting pose.

From here I like to move to thread the needle pose.  You don’t have to move much from puppy pose.  You just feed one arm under the opposite arm pit (palm up) and bring your cheek to the mat as you gaze in the direction the arm is reaching.

 

 

From here you would lay down flat on your belly for intense shoulder stretch. Start by laying flat on your belly and taking your arms out T-shaped, palms down.

 

If you are rolling onto your left side you will bend your right elbow, to use your hand to roll you, but also bend your right knee so you can place your foot to the left.  Make sure your head is supported with a block, blanket or pillow if your cheek doesn’t easily reach the floor.

Come up to a seated position from here.

 

If available reach arms behind the back with finger tips facing you.  Lift your chest.

 

Finish it all out with some internal and external rotation of the shoulders with cow face pose.  Straps are your friend here or a towel.

 

A strap isn’t necessary if you can easily clasp your fingers.