When I think of types of yoga poses, shoulder openers are usually not the first to come to mind. I remember the first time a teacher led a class I was in through a movement to help create flexible shoulders. It involved standing near the wall and reaching our arms back behind us along the wall while we turned slightly in the opposite direction. It wasn’t exactly a power pose, and I wondered why take the time to do this—or any—shoulder-opening yoga pose.
Since we spend most of our time moving around on our legs, not our arms, it’s not difficult to see why most of the time, we prioritize strengthening our legs and core over working our shoulders. But having open shoulders may be more important than you think!
Why Flexible Shoulders Are Important
If you do any kind of physical work, you understand the benefits of flexible shoulders. In short, shoulder mobility can increase your overall strength by decreasing the load on other parts of your body. Even if you don’t do a lot of physical work, you probably reach for things throughout the day. It’s a lot easier to pull a book or a coffee mug from a high shelf, for example, if you have flexible shoulders.
If you enjoy sports like golf or tennis, you also know how important it is to have strong, flexible shoulders. Or perhaps you need to carry a child during the day. Do you drive a significant distance each day or work at a desk? You need flexible, open shoulders to do those things as well. If your shoulders are tight, you’re more likely to feel pain and fatigue at the end of the day.
Yoga for Flexible Shoulders
Besides the movement at the wall I described earlier, there are many other yoga poses and movements that can help keep your shoulders open, strong, and flexible. You can do them anywhere, even if you’re not doing a full yoga practice.
So, which poses open your shoulders? Think child’s pose, thread the needle, cow face arms, and eagle arms. Notice how your shoulders move and what you feel when you do these movements. Another way to open your shoulders is to clasp your hands behind your back and lift them over your head in forward bends, humble warrior, or locust pose.
Strong, Flexible Shoulders Help With Inversions
Another good reason to practice shoulder openers and poses that build shoulder strength is you’ll need that strength for inversions and arm balances. Plank and forearm plank are also easier with strong shoulders. That means strong shoulders indirectly help you build a strong core!
Next time you go to yoga class, notice how your upper arms and shoulders feel in different poses. Do you notice strain or discomfort in poses that require upper body strength? That may be another sign that you’re neglecting your shoulders and need to practice more shoulder openers.
As you build strength and flexibility in your shoulders, you’ll begin to notice some poses that once seemed impossible (handstand and crow come to mind for me) begin to feel possible. And you’ll probably move through your day with more ease as well.