Move to Meditate Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 6

Blissful Shoulders

35 min - Practice


This session focuses on healthy range of motion in the shoulders, as well as introducing you to a brain-science-informed approach to Buddhist vipassana body awareness in a deeply healing savasana at the end.

Click here to listen to the playlist Julian created to go along with this practice, then come back here start the above video at the same time to enjoy the full synchronized experience!
What You'll Need: Mat

About This Video


Read Full Transcript

So welcome, we're going to start on the hands and knees with a little half dog shoulder stretch. So take your hands out in front of you, gently put your forehead down, your hips should still be up in the air, leaning back, feel free to adjust a little if you need to. Knee and hand placement, forehead nice and comfortable, just a good warm up stretch into the shoulders, which is where we'll be focusing today. Breathe into your upper body, breathe so you feel your chest expanding. Let's take four more here, just getting established in body awareness and breath, right here, right now.

You might sigh the breath out here if that feels helpful, let some of the stress go. One more, one hand comes in followed by the other, I'm going to work now with another variation on that shoulder stretch using the block. So I'm going to come down onto my elbows with the block between my hands, my knees far enough back again that I can lean back without sitting down and place the forehead on the mat, just adjusting a little here and then I'm going to lift the block up, keeping the elbows on the floor and I'm going to move back and forth just a little to feel for where my shoulder could use a little opening. So right there feels good to me, you see where it feels right for you, feel free to come out and have a look and see what I'm doing and then join me again here and focus the breath right up into the sensations that you notice. Let's give it three more breaths, feel free to sigh it out, a sense of letting go, anything that's been creating stress and tension lately for you.

Last chance, deep breath in, good and then carefully put the block down and again bring one hand in and then the other as you lift your head and find your way onto your knees. I'm going to put the block aside and next we're going to turn sideways on the mat and come into whatever straddle is comfortable for you, so your legs might be further apart or closer together, we can go in and out of this anytime you need to, really stay aware of how your hamstrings and your groin muscles are responding to what we're doing here. Alright, so the right arm goes up on the inhale, coming carefully out over that leg, holding either big toe or ankle or pants, whatever is comfortable for you. I'm going to sweep the left arm up and over here and then staying in the pose but taking the arm back the way you came. So up and over, back and forth, notice how your hand wants to turn, mine turns down as I come this way and goes up as I go the other way, you can improvise, listen to your shoulder, up and over, now we're going to reach away in this direction and play with rotations.

So put your head somewhere that's comfortable for your neck and just rotate through three hand positions, so we're up, down and backwards, rotating through those three hand positions through the wrist and the shoulder and now gently adding the neck, nice and careful neck and shoulder rotations, good, and then sweep up and over. And again, where your head is just depends on what feels right, you might look down, you might hang your head, you might be holding your head, whatever feels right in this long side bend and then sweep the arm up and find your breath right here and on this exhale the arm wraps around behind you, bend the elbows, you can wiggle the fingers through just to hold on to whatever's available there for you and for the first variation here I want you to turn your face down, it's like you're looking at that bicep or that thigh and kind of hanging your head in that direction so your chin comes close to your chest, at the same time that shoulder with the arm behind you rolls back a little, breathe up into how that feels in your neck and your shoulder, let your jaw soften and for the next variation we're gonna carefully tilt the chin up, so notice this position, the weight of my head is still hanging toward the floor but my chin is tilting up toward the sky and I feel it here in the scalene muscles on the side of my throat, not a lot of places where we introduce some length into those scalene muscles, very important, the shoulder still rolling back and feel now, you might close your eyes for a moment, feel for sensation evidence of the breath coming up the front of your body like you're connecting groin, belly, chest, throat, jaw, with your breath, good and then we're gonna relax the neck, carefully bring the arm out, put that hand on the mat or the floor and then let the other hand join as you bring yourself carefully back up, take a moment in the center, I'm gonna sit with my hands resting on each other, a little bit of a meditation mudra and take a couple breaths there coming back to center, now you may find that you need to bring your legs out of this position for a moment, maybe shake them out a little, do whatever you need to, give yourself a couple more breaths here, we're just letting the spine come back to neutral, letting the muscles of your back relax, notice the difference on the two sides now between your neck and shoulder left and right side, good so if you're ready, left arm straight up on an inhale now and we're exhaling carefully out over that leg, go and slowly be patient with your body as you change sides, good and you can hold on to big toe or ankle or pants, really stay tuned into what your body's ready for today, we'll sweep up and over again with that arm and just like on the other side go back and forth, up and over, notice the different hand positions that show up in terms of how the shoulder rotates, now we're reaching away again, head somewhere comfortable for your neck as we rotate through those three hand positions up, down and backwards, rotating shoulder and wrist, head can gently turn up and down a little, just reminding your brain that your range of motion and your body's capacity to move outside of the habits and the tension patterns is something we're encouraging, remapping body awareness, sweep up and over, we'll just hang out here for a breath, breathe into that low back and then send the arm straight up, find your deep breath here in this big open shape, maybe play with the sense here of whatever the arm is reaching for in your life right now, whatever the hand might be letting go of, on this exhale wrap the arm behind you, fingers wiggle through a little, you can hold on to waistband or hip or thigh and again we're gonna turn the face down, so it's like you're looking at the floor hanging your head toward that straight leg and at the same time the arm behind your back, that shoulder rolls back and you can breathe up into the neck and the shoulder and the upper back, what's it like on this side? Now carefully tilt the chin up, head still hangs, throat opens, breath coming up the front of the body, close your eyes here, stay with yourself, stay with the sensations whether they're pleasant or uncomfortable, intense or subtle, keep breathing, be a good friend to yourself, one more breath here, let the jaw soften, you might sigh it out here and notice how that feels, good and then the head can carefully roll back down, the arm comes out from behind you, use your hands here to support so you don't strain your back as you come up, walking back up and again sitting in the center, feel free to come out of that straddle position and shake out your legs a little if you need to or just close your eyes take a couple breaths here, how's the energy now? Alright so if you haven't done it yet, I'm imagining you might have, but to come out of this carefully lift up a little, the heels slide slightly towards you, bring the legs carefully together and just shake them out a little, so just shaking out knees, noticing how your hamstrings and your groin muscles are doing after all that, you might roll your feet a little, okay so we're going to do a little bit of self massage at this point, it's really delicious stuff, really nice stress relief and I think you'll feel a positive effect in your body, so I'm going to sit on my knees, you can be in whatever position you like and to start with here I'm just going to put the fingers onto the top of my head and put the thumbs on my cheekbones, some people have a hard time finding this, your cheekbones are just in front of your ears, thumbs right on those cheekbones and your fingers just comfortably, your hand and your fingers comfortably resting on your head and I'm going to slide both of my thumbs down from the cheekbone into the masseter muscle of the jaw, this is the muscle that tends to get really tight when we're stressed and it's such a dense and often tight muscle that you might even think you're pressing on a bone but you're not, pressing on the muscle, let your chin soften a little, let there be a little space between your upper teeth and your lower teeth, you might close your eyes here and just feel and press and breathe, you want it to hurt so good, shouldn't be any sharp pain but there should be that nice sense that you're releasing tension, let's give it three more breaths, you can press a little more firmly and let yourself know if it's too much, you might slide the breath out, one more, good and then let the hands float down, take a moment here with your hands palm up on your thighs, with your eyes closed take a couple of breaths, notice the effect of what we just did, really good, now I'm going to turn around so that you can see what I'm doing on the back of my neck and the base of my skull, okay so right here I'm going to kind of hook my fingers around like this and go into the neck on either side of where the spine protrudes, so where you can feel that bony part of the vertebrae kind of sticking straight out on either side of that, just go up and down into those little muscles and tendons and there'll be places that kind of give you tingles and that feel warm through your body, breathe and notice how that feels, come all the way up to the base of the skull with your fingers, you can go down into the upper trapezius muscle where the shoulder meets the neck, enjoy it, good and then now we're going to put the hands again over the top of the head and with the thumbs I'm going to find the base of the skull, right under the base of the skull where the neck meets the back of your head, there's a little groove, in Chinese medicine this is called gallbladder 20, it's a very important acupressure point, I'm going to press in and up with my thumbs, tilt my chin up a little and just breathe here, feel your body, one more deep breath here, let it sigh out, good and then you can float your hands down so that they're on your thighs, close your eyes and take a couple breaths here, how's the energy now? So you may notice sensations, colors, you may notice a shift in temperature, shift in your mood, feel what we've done now in the jaw and the base of the skull, the neck and the shoulders, take in the good and soften even more into that exhale.

So I want to share with you an image from the poet Derek Walcott, it's from his poem called Love After Love, he says the time will come when with elation you will greet yourself at your own door smiling, you will love again the stranger who was yourself whom you ignored for another but who knows you by heart. Take another breath here just coming home to yourself and feeling the stress relief that you've been creating in the shoulders and the neck and we'll continue on now to hands and knees and into cat cow and so looking up and arching, hanging head and rounding, notice how everything moves together, the head, the spine and the shoulders, the ribs and the hips and notice if anything feels different now that we've been doing this work in neck and shoulder area, your jaw, your face, on this inhale look up, tuck toes onto the mat, we're exhaling to downward dog, in your downward dog you might walk side to side a little, acknowledge that we've also been demanding a lot of your hamstrings and your calves and then take another breath in downward dog, you might shake out the head a little let that neck keep lengthening and when you're ready come down into child's pose. Let's take one more breath here surrendering into the exhale and then up out of child's pose, I'm going to tuck the toes under and come back into a squat here just for a moment your heels may or may not be on the floor that's okay, we're coming up to standing joining hands behind you and lifting shoulders off the ears as the head hangs, breathe here into your chest and your upper back, so filling your chest with breath, hanging your head as you're ready arms float down yourself carefully up to standing, I like to brace with hands on thighs and keep the back kind of flat rather than rolling a little easier on the spine, if you get it all dizzy here you can bend your knees and just sink down, when you've got your bearings standing up we're going to do a couple standing poses continuing to work with this shoulder theme, so at the front of the mat left leg forward right leg steps back we're coming into a warrior one variation, arms come up on an inhale and you can turn the palms out here try this with me rotate the arms back in so you feel that rotation in the shoulder following the line as the hand and the rest of the arm rotate back in, take a breath here feet planting, core engaged, as you're ready float down the arms we're going to bring the arms here into eagle, so right arm on top and I'm wrapping the arms around and scooping the elbows up, nice and strong in the lower body, head somewhere that feels good to your neck and breathe up into the shoulders in the upper back, last full breath here working with the intensity if the exhale wants to sigh out go with it trust your body and we're going to carefully unwind float those arms down shake them out a little and then step up to the front of the mat, changing sides so stepping back getting oriented in this warrior one position arms come up play again with that rotation just feeling into the shoulder couple breaths here feet planted inner legs engaged core nice and firm as you're ready float the arms down we'll come into that eagle variation on the other side so left arm on top elbows scoop up a little nice and easy in the neck grounded through the lower body breathe where you feel this couple more breaths let it sigh out if you like with or without sound as this area let's go and then carefully release we're going to turn and take a moment here with the feet wide apart so coming now into warrior two I'm going to turn my left foot out and set up in this warrior two position bring the arms out left arm goes behind my back I'm wiggling the fingers up between the shoulder blades and then reaching the right arm back and if possible interlacing fingers here if not you might be holding onto your clothing feel into the shoulders here as you find your breath easy neck and jaw slow deep breath working with the intensity and then carefully releasing easing out of that warrior two position give yourself a breath here notice how it feels so let's do the other side we'll turn the right foot out set up those warrior two legs in the way that feels sustainable for you we'll bring the arms out and just take a moment here finding that warrior two shape feeling your center and finding your breath good so arms float down I'm going to take the right arm behind me wiggle the fingers up a little left arm goes up reaching back if possible you might be touching fingers or interlacing fingers you might just be holding onto your clothing here if there's nothing to hold don't hold anything it's okay be right here just feel what you're feeling and give it some breath good stay with it whether it's intense or subtle uncomfortable or pleasant for you give it two more breaths if you can be a good friend to yourself you might sigh the breath out if that feels useful and then carefully release straighten that leg bring the feet a little closer together if you need to you can shake out the shoulders here give it a little wiggle and then when you're ready close your eyes palms face forward take a few breaths here noticing your sensations really be interested in what it's like to stay with sensation awareness throughout your body and in a way the assertion of the Buddha is that we come to the greatest insight the greatest liberation and healing and awakening through the doorway of learning how to pay attention in an open yet focused way to the sensation body take a few more breaths here just noticing whatever's happening even if you can't name it Notice how the sensations respond when you exhale through the mouth good so we're going to go to the wall now and work with a chest opening pose that's really good for the shoulder in terms of the tendency we have to round the shoulders forward so this chest opening pose is actually going to bring the shoulders back and down so the way I'm setting up it's basically a warrior one type shape in the legs with the leg closest to the wall in front and then this hand comes back and I'm going to go forward just a little so that I'm holding on to this part of the windowsill with the arm at about shoulder height the other hand goes on my chest so set yourself up you could be against the wall if you have a nice big windowsill like this that could be what you're using you could be in a door frame once you're ready close your eyes here and breathe up into the hand on your chest good and one thing you can do is take that hand up slightly higher and bend the elbow a little that might get you into a slightly different area of your chest and shoulder either way is fine notice how your body responds let's give it three more breaths and the exhale might sigh out on this last breath keep letting go good and then carefully slide that hand down straighten the leg ease out of that shake out your arms and legs a little alright so let's do the other side we're going to face the other way and again the leg closest to the wall is the one that's in front I'm setting myself up so I have that full extension I'm not too close to the wall or in this case the window handed about shoulder height the other hand comes on to my chest nice and strong in the legs and the core so I have a good foundation and then I'm breathing up into the front of the shoulder in the chest upper chest and again you could stay there or take the hand just like an inch or two up and bend the elbow slightly see if that gets you into somewhere interesting it's all a big exploration this is my one precious body this is the only journey I'm on breathe into what you feel here and you might let it sigh out and then carefully release the arm comes down the front leg straightens and we'll turn away from the wall again palms face forward give yourself a couple breaths here feel the effects of what we're doing as we work into these fairly highly charged muscles these muscles tend to respond to stress they tend to tighten up and contract around difficult experience so notice how it feels now to be creating some openness through the heart area notice what you feel down into your hands as you breathe so as you're standing as you're feeling your body right now these words from Mary Oliver she says to live in this world you must be able to do three things to love what is mortal to hold it against your bones knowing that your own life depends on it and when the time comes to let it go take a breath here notice anything that you're letting go notice anything you're allowing yourself to hold a little closer to your heart beautiful so I invite you now to come down onto your mat great so right now I want to invite you to come onto your back and prepare for Shavasana resting pose and I'll stay sitting as I guide you through this next meditation that you'll do lying on your back if you're comfortable with that so go ahead get comfortable when you're ready let your eyes close and I'm going to introduce a little body sensing meditation that fits into the category of Vipassana I'm working with a particular way of how the body map is laid out on your brain so get comfortable and right away bring your attention to your hands you'll notice it's really easy to feel your hands and your fingers notice the sensations there and let your hands and fingers relax and as you feel your hands and fingers letting go you may find it's really easy to bring your attention to your face and especially your lips and your tongue and you can soften there and as your lips and tongue soften feel that spreading through your whole face and your scalp and let the tension drain from your jaw and as the jaw releases you might feel the base of the skull where we were pressing earlier with the thumbs you might feel that base of the skull area relaxing and softening and from here it's pretty easy to drop your attention deep into your belly drop deep into your belly and feel the belly uncoiling and your low back letting go and as you exhale right now I release what I cannot control let the awareness spread up through your chest and your upper back feel the inhale filling your chest I receive love and gratitude and beauty breathing out I surrender what I cannot control feel your arms relaxing from shoulder to fingertip let your neck lengthen and your throat soften and now your hips blossoming your pelvis settling thighs lengthen and loosen your knees can soften calves and ankles feet and toes all letting go let your spine be loose and fluid from tail to head and sense into your nervous system even more radiant now as you relax deeply from head to toe cradled by the earth below you open to the big sky above take a few more breaths here just to rest as you are so give yourself permission to keep taking in what feels good about the state that you've generated for yourself now and you can stay resting as long as you like those of you who are ready you might find your way carefully up to sitting take your time and if you are sitting bring your hands together let your eyes open thank you so much for joining me today namaste.


Jenny S
5 people like this.
I'm in love with this series! Such simple movements, thought and breath work with such profound results ...
thanks Jenny :)
5 people like this.
PS: i am delighted to announce i now have custom designed playlists you can synchronize with these classes, for a more full spectrum experience!! here's the playlist for the above class: Jenny
Deidra S
1 person likes this.
There are no limitations to this heart opening practice - again, thanks for holding my hand and guiding me directly into the practice of bringing light to the shadows; Amazing Grace was a hell of a charge as was the Love After Love poem; had a beautifully uncomfortable practice
Deidra that is very touching to hear. thanks for sharing with me deirdre. may we all keep coming home to ourselves and enacting self compassion.
1 person likes this.
Love, love, love this practice. Exactly what I needed after a stress filled day at the office. Thank you.
aaaaah that makes me happy Sam thanks!
1 person likes this.
Really amazing. Thank you so much!
you're welcome KARUN please enjoy my other classes too!
Johanna L
1 person likes this.
So beautiful. I love this so much, and all the fantastic poems that you read in the exact right moment, it enriches the experience for me. Thank you.
1-10 of 23

You need to be a subscriber to post a comment.

Please Log In or Create an Account to start your free trial.

Footer Yoga Anytime Logo

Just Show Up

Over 2,900 yoga and meditation practices to bring you Home.

15-Day Free Trial