Senior Yoga Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 4

Safe Shoulder Opening

15 min - Practice


Alana shares a safe and effective shoulder opening sequence at the wall. It encourages breath awareness and it increases range of movement in the shoulders, which prepares us for a variation Downward Dog and Warrior 1 at the wall.
What You'll Need: Mat, Wall

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(waves washing onto beach) So welcome back, in this short piece, we're going to begin with some breath awareness at the wall, and some shoulder opening and move towards a right angle at the wall so exploring a variation of downward dog at the wall and then move towards a warrior one play at the wall. So, the first step is to stand about a half a foot from your wall and then one arm reach up. So I'm gonna arm to reach my right arm up the wall and the first step is to go down through the feet as you begin to lengthen up through the spine. And reach the fingers all the way up the walls so you get nice long length through the right side of the body and then spread the fingers wide apart, and as you spread the fingers wide, let the shoulders soften back and down. Just notice your posture here.

You find Tadasana here, spreading the toes lengthening out through the spine. And then bring your awareness towards the right lung. Towards the right rib cage and you might wrap the left hand around the right rib cage and just begin to invite your breath into this area, into this region of the rib cage. Notice here the quality of the inhale into the rib cage and the exhale. And we'll do this for about a minute together.

Breathing in, and then exhale full breath. Notice where you can soften through the shoulders, the face, maintaining that length on the right side. We're not trying to force the breath into the right rib cage, we're simply inviting the breath into this area. So you might even bring your minds eye into the rib cage as you feel the breath expand into the intercostal muscles, and then exhale and release. And then as you're ready you release the left arm down to your side.

Now you might stay right here, this might be perfect for your shoulder, you might continue to tiptoe your fingers back a bit and taking a moment to spread the fingers wide apart, lengthen through the spine and inhale. You might stay here, you might continue to walk the fingers back and breathe. And the tendency here is to let that right hip kind of roll towards the wall and see what it feels like to draw that right hip forward squaring the hips as you lengthen the spine and breathe. And can you find a place were the head feels comfortable and connected? Good, and taking a few breaths.

And as you're ready walking the fingertips back up towards that 12 o'clock hour. And then releasing the arm down along your side. And just take a few moments. You might step away from your wall. You might shake it out a little bit and just notice how you feel.

Good, allow for an inhale and then exhale. And then we'll turn and then we'll do the other side. So this time you have a view from the back. You'll get to see my shoulder blade. Okay, so turning about half a foot from your wall, and the first step is to begin to go down through the feet as you go up, and really lengthen, lengthen the left side.

So my right arm is drawing towards the floor. I'm lengthening up towards the ceiling, towards the sky and then spreading my fingers wide apart and again, you might press your palm into the wall a bit, feel that connection there. Bringing my attention and my awareness into my left rib cage, the left lung and then wrapping my right hand around the right rib cage. Just feel that connection, that relationship there and then inviting the breath to deepen. Breathing full into the left lung, into the rib cage, the intercostal muscles.

Again, without trying to force the breath. It's a simple invitation to notice the relationship here with the breath. And here I'll take one more full breath, and then releasing that right arm down. Again, this is a new side, so on this arm and shoulder you might stay right here. This might be a strong enough stretch on your left shoulder.

If appropriate you might begin to walk the fingers back, taking a moment to spread the finger wide, press the palm into the wall, continue to lengthen and breathe. You might start to feel some heat rising in the body. Remember that ease through the neck. And again, you might say here or you might continue to tiptoe the fingers back a little bit further. And you might stay here, withdrawing the left hip forward, the right hip back.

Now for me in this shoulder, this is quite intense. This is a deep stretch and I'm gonna take one more inhale. And, then as I exhale, I'm ready to walk the fingers back. And then slowly releasing the arm down. It might feel good to step away from the wall, shake it out.

And then together let's draw the shoulders up around the ears and then exhale and release the shoulders down. Just take a moment to again pause and notice how you feel. And then from here will find a right angle at the wall. So, walking towards the wall, your gonna slide your palms just underneath your shoulders, right in line with your shoulders and taking a moment to really spread the fingers wide apart. Now, this simple action of spreading the fingers wide apart is a huge workout.

Really let the hands melt into the wall, especially if you're working with stiffness in the joints or arthritis, this here can be quite challenging. But practice just letting the hands, the palms melt into the wall and then drawing the shoulder blades down the back, so away from the ears, elbows in towards the body. And taking a moment to with the fingertips, traction the heart up and forward towards the wall. So I'm getting a nice length through the spine, the heart is lifting towards the wall, the shoulder blades are drawing down the back, elbows towards the body. Good and then as you're ready begin to walk your feet back into a right angle at the wall.

So allow your feet to be about hip distance apart. You can look down at your feet and bring them right underneath the hips. You might take a look at your hands make sure the hands are even with each other and spreading the fingers. And the main action here, the emphasis is to reach your hips, reach your sit bones away from your hands so the spine begins to extend and lengthen. Beautiful and then bring your awareness towards your breath and inviting the breath to length evenly, and notice what's happening with the head.

So is the head dropping? Is the head lifting towards the wall? And can you find a nice long extension from the tailbone to the crown of the head? Taking about five breaths here you can keep your knees bent, especially if the hamstrings are really sticky and tight. Again, the action is to really reach and lengthen through your sit bones and then press down through the balls of the feet again, pressing through the index finger inhale full and then as you're ready, exhale slowly walk back to the wall to come out.

And you might take a moment to release the arms and rest the forehead on the wall. Now, I'd like to show a variation to that especially if you're working with a shoulder injury so one variation is to bring your forearms to the wall and you walk your feet back. So this is slightly a backed off variation from the right angle. And my head is resting on the wall. Okay, I'm kinda pressing through my forearms, and again, the action is to reach my hips and sit bones away from my hands, away from the wall.

And taking a few full breaths here and you might find a closer stance to the wall depending on your shoulders and your body. And then, as you're ready coming out and releasing the arm. Might feel nice to draw the shoulders up around the ears and then release the shoulders down. So, from here we'll do what's called the wall crawl. This is wonderful to do, we do this in a lot of my senior yoga classes.

So reaching my hands up, bending the knees and just begin to reach and lengthen through one arm. Allowing the hand to move across the body and the bottom hand might stretched down towards the floor. And then bending the knees and stretching the hand across the body and lengthening, and just finding this fluid motion at the wall. Again this is like melting of the palms into the wall and think about as you stretch and reach up through one arm you're connecting down through the foot. Good.

Breathing and lengthening. One of the images I like to use is imagine you're like finger painting the wall, and there's no right or wrong way to do this. It's just inviting more movement into the body and it feels really good. Maybe one more. Oh, and then release.

And then I'm gonna find a right angle again at the wall. So walking with the feet back into that right angle, looking at my hands, spreading the fingers, reaching my hips away from my hands, lengthening for the sit bones and breathing. Connecting down through the feet, you might take about five breaths here and you might soften the back of the knees. And then moving towards the warrior one variation of the wall, so I'll step my right foot forward and pivot on the outer edge of the back foot bending that right knee so its tracking over my big toe. So here we're in a warrior one variation of the wall.

You might keep your hands at the wall. You might bring one hand at the heart and perhaps both hands at the heart. You might choose to stretch the arms over the top of the head, lengthening, breathing, be pressing to the outer edge of the back foot, and then as you're ready releasing the hands back to the wall and then stepping back into that right angle, lengthening. And then as you're ready, you'll inhale, exhale, step the opposite foot, for me it's my left foot, and then pivoting on the outer edge of the back foot again, the hands might rest on the wall for support. You might bring one hand or both hands together at the heart or reach the arms up towards the sky, breathing.

Good, and as you're ready, releasing the hands to the wall, last time will step back, finding that right angle, I'm gonna walk my feet a little closer underneath my hips, take a look at my hands, continue to reach through my sit bones, breathe. This is a nice variation from downward dog, not putting any pressure or weight on my wrists. You might rest again with the forehead on the wall, arms along your sides. Just take a moment to stand in Tadasana. Namaste, thank you for joining.


1 person likes this.
This is a wonderful shoulder opener! Thank you so much Alana! Do you have any further recommendations or stretches for the deeper shoulder muscles (like the infraspinatus)?
Hi Kadee! Great question. I like to play with variations of Cactus Arms and Garudasana (Eagle Arms) in Crescent Moon and Warrior 1, to get that nice opening in the chest and deep stretch in the shoulders. Also, rolling on a tennis ball can be a great way to get into the infraspinatus and release the shoulder muscles. Let me know what you find! xo Alana

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