Yoga for Back Pain Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 4


30 min - Practice


Find stability and mobility in the shoulders with this creative practice. We explore full rotation of the shoulder joint in dynamic lunge, kneeling, and standing sequences, while working on balance, coordination, and strength. You will feel soft and supple.
What You'll Need: Mat


Read Full Transcript

Welcome, my name is Hattie Bluestone and this yoga sequence is designed to cultivate both stability and mobility in your shoulders. To begin, come into child's pose. In this child's pose, you might take your knees a little bit apart from one another and your big toes together, reaching your arms forward to either make a pillow for your head or stretching so that your forehead comes down to your mat. From there, just to transition from your day, take a couple rounds of just deep soothing breath. So inhaling, filling up your lungs, and through your mouth, exhaling, maybe even sighing a little bit.

One more deep breath like that, inhale. And exhale. So arriving here in your body and on your yoga mat. From here, come up to hands and knees and we'll begin with cat and cow. So when you're ready, inhale and draw your heart forward, lifting your sitting bones up.

And as you exhale, round your spine like an angry Halloween cat, tucking your pelvis under, letting your head hang down. Inhale, cow pose, heart draws forward, sitting bones lift. With your hands, gently drag the mat back toward your knees. As you exhale, round your spine and with your hands, press the mat away. Inhale, cow pose, and exhale, cat.

We'll do two more. So for your shoulder blades to move well, we really want your upper back also to have plenty of mobility. So really stretching into your upper back here. One more, inhale, cow pose, and exhale, cat. Pause in your cat's spine.

This next movement is called barrel rolls. You'll take the left side of your rib cage and nudge it toward the left. Your shoulders and hips stay where they were. Then come down into cow pose, just your ordinary cow right at the center. Nudge the right side of your rib cage over toward the right and then lift back up into cat.

So it becomes the shape of a barrel, rolling to the side, nudge your left rib cage to the left, cow pose, right rib cage to the right, and then rounding up. Start to circle in this way, stretching out the rib cage, upper back, sides of the waist, and then let's change direction. So breathing in and now exhale, take your rib cage to the right. Come down to cow pose, left rib cage to the left, and up through cat. So you're tracing out a shape of a barrel that's lying on its side.

Breathing in and breathing out, relaxing through your head and neck. One more. And then come into a neutral spine. Come off of your hands and onto your fists. So it's like your knuckles are down into your yoga mat and you're doing thumbs up, thumbs pointing toward the top of your mat.

As you breathe in, slowly glide your two shoulder blades together on your back. As you breathe out, press your fists down into the earth and spread your shoulder blades wide apart from one another. With control, nice and slow, inhale, glide your shoulder blades together. Exhale, push into your fists, spread your shoulder blades apart, really push the earth away from you. Inhale, slowly, smoothly gliding the shoulder blades together.

Exhale, push your fists into the earth, shoulder blades spread apart. This is strengthening serratus anterior, really important muscle for your shoulders. Inhale, gently draw your shoulder blades together. Exhale, spread them apart, pushing your fists into the earth. We'll do one more.

Inhale with control. Smoothly exhale, push your fists down into the earth, spread your shoulder blades wide apart. From there, come back onto your hands. Walk your hands back toward your knees and come up to a kneeling position. As you breathe in, lift your shoulder blades up toward the sky.

And as you exhale, take them back and down. Inhale your shoulders forward and up, exhaling back and down. Again, inhale, shoulders go forward, then up toward the ears. Exhaling they go back and down. One more like that, inhale and exhale.

Let's try to do the same thing now with our hands on the ground. It's okay if it's a little bit awkward and new. As you breathe in, take your shoulders up toward your ears. As you exhale, take them down your back and then push your hands into the ground to spread them apart. Shoulder blades up toward the ears, sending your shoulder blades down your back, and then pushing your hands into the ground and spreading them apart.

So we're doing shoulder rolls just like we were doing in kneeling, but you're trying to do them here on hands and knees. It definitely takes a while to get the hang of this one. So again, being really patient and gentle with yourself. Part of what we're doing is building a connection between our brain and our upper back and our shoulders. Good.

One more time, and then coming back to a neutral position. From there, extend your right leg back with your right tippy toes touching the earth. And then find your opposite hand, your left hand. We're going to circle the left arm. As you breathe in, stretch your left arm forward and up toward the sky.

As you exhale, reach that left arm toward the back of your mat and then toward your floor. So inhale, glide the arm forward and up, push your right hand down, lift out of your right shoulder, exhaling back, back, back, and around. Moving to the pace of your own breath, we're creating a sense of mobility here in this left shoulder, but also feel the strength we're building in the right shoulder. Press your right hand down, inhale, and exhale. Good, one more, breathing in, looking up, breathing out, reaching back, back, back, and around.

We'll switch sides, so come back to hands and knees. Extend your left leg back, setting your left tippy toes on the ground, and then we'll circle your right arm. So breathing in, glide your right arm forward and up toward the sky. And as you exhale, reach it back and then around. Inhale, arm goes forward and up, stretching open.

Inhale back and around, stretching your back, inhale, lifting out of your left shoulder, really pushing the left hand down, exhaling back and around. We'll do two more here, like a moving meditation, feeling the movement from the inside. One more, inhale, arm goes forward and up, exhaling back and around. We'll come into downward facing dog, so tucking your toes under, reach your hips up and back, finding a triangle shape with your body, and settling in for a deep breath. From downward facing dog, walk your feet forward to a hanging forward fold.

So take the weight out of your arms, bend your knees, like a rag doll, just let your spine drape down. Hold the opposite elbow, so gently cupping each elbow in the other hand. Let your head hang down heavy and take a resting breath here. Now to roll up to standing, push your feet into the ground, rounding your spine up, taking a big shoulder roll up, back, and down as you come upright. From here, look down at your feet and make sure they're hips distance apart.

We're going to do a shoulder rowing sequence. So as you inhale, take your arms forward until they're parallel to the earth. And then like you're rowing a boat, bending your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together. As you inhale, glide your arms forward. Next, exhale and press the arms back so the palms of the hands come all the way up to facing toward the sky.

Inhale, take your arms all the way up and overhead, palms are facing forward. And as you exhale, this is a lat pull, you're going to bend your elbows and pull your arms down, shoulder blades down. As you inhale, open up your arms nice and wide, and as you exhale, give yourself a hug crossing one arm on top of the other. Let's do the other side. Inhale, open wide, stretch your chest, other arm on top as you give yourself a hug.

Then like you're taking off a sweater, inhaling, glide your arms up and exhale, let your arms slowly float down. You'll get the hang of it. Let's do it again. Inhale, arms go forward until they're parallel to the earth. Like you're rowing about, exhale and pull your arms back, squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Inhale, glide your arms forward, and then press your arms back, back, back as far as they go. Inhale all the way up. And as you exhale, lat pull, bend your elbows and pull the arm bones down. Inhale stretch your chest, reach your arms open wide. Inhale give yourself a hug, inhale open wide again, and the other arm on top, exhale.

Like you're taking off a sweater, inhaling, glide your arms up, exhale out, out, out and around. Great. We're going to do the same thing. Only every time we inhale, we're going to lift our heels off of the ground to practice some balance. As you inhale, lift your heels and send your arms forward halfway.

Like you're rowing about, exhale, let your heels come to the earth. Lift your heels up, inhale, send your arms forward. And as you exhale, heels to the earth, press your arms back, back, back. Good. Inhale all the way up.

So coming to your tippy toes, reaching your arms up, palms forward, and exhale, lat pull, bending the elbows down. Inhale, stretch your chest, lift your heels up. Exhale, give yourself a hug. And inhale, lifting your heels, stretching your chest, exhale, hug. Like you're taking off a sweater, inhale, lift your heels up, and exhale, slowly let the arms float down.

Okay, same thing. Every inhale, we'll lift the heels. Every exhale, we're going to come down into a squat, bending your knees and sending your hips back. Just follow along. As you inhale, send your arms forward halfway, lift your heels.

As you exhale, like you're rowing a boat, come down into that squat and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Inhale, glide your arms forward and lift your heels off the earth. Exhale, squat, and press your arms back, back, back. Inhale all the way up toward your tippy toes, palms face forward, lat pull as you come down into that squat, sitting your hips back, spread and lift your toes. Inhale, stretch your arms open wide, lift your heels.

Exhale, give yourself a hug, a moment of compassion. Inhale, stretch your arms open wide, lift your heels. Other arm goes on top, then like you're taking off a sweater, inhale, and just bring your heels to the earth, exhaling. Let's do the whole thing one last time. Inhale, lift your heels, arms go forward halfway.

Exhale like you're rowing a boat, sitting down into your squat. Inhale, glide your arms forward, exhale, press your arms back, back, back. Inhale, come all the way up as tall as you can be. Exhale, lat pull as you sit back and down. Inhale, open your chest, lift your heels up.

Give yourself a hug, feeling the strength of your legs. Inhale, open your arms wide, chest stretch. Exhale, other arm on top. Inhale like you're taking off a sweater, and exhale, bring your heels to the mat and slowly relax your arms. Nice job.

Here, from the top of your mat, bend your knees and bring your arms down toward or to the floor. Step your right leg back into a lunge and bring your right knee down to the mat. Let's take a moment just to pause here, letting our body come back to the mat and back to the earth. From there, tuck your tailbone under and lift your arms up for low lunge. Take your arms out to cactus arms, so your elbows are about at the height of your shoulders, palms of the hands are facing forward, elbows bent 90 degrees.

As you inhale, you'll tip your arms back, and as you exhale, turn, rotate so the palms face toward the ground, and then you keep rotating so the palms are pressing back. So we inhale and rotate our arms open, and exhale, rotating our arms close. The elbows stay in the same place the whole time. Inhale, this is external rotation in our shoulders. Exhaling, this is internal rotation in our shoulders, really press into that stretch.

Two more, inhale, and exhale. Like you're moving through thick honey, pressing the air away. One more, inhale, and exhale. So that's great movement for your rotator cuff. Take an inhale, stretch your arms up, and exhale, bring your hands down.

Tuck your back toes under, and then step forward to switch sides, stepping your left foot back into a lunge, bringing your left knee down to the mat. And again, just pause here for a moment, letting your body acclimate to this new shape. From there, tucking your tailbone under and rising up, low lunge on the second side. From there, relax your arms, we're going to do something slightly different for the arms. So this time the elbows press back behind your body, and then like you're tracing out the shape of a circle, slowly reach your arms up.

Good, inhale, elbows go back, exhale, moving through thick honey, reaching the arms forward and up. Inhale, it's an arc, it's part of a circle, exhale, forward and up. Breathing in, taking your elbows back, breathing out, bottom tips of your shoulder blades are pressing in toward the rib cage. Let's do two more, inhale and exhale. Last one, breathing in and breathing out.

Now your choice, down dog or child's pose. From downward facing dog, bring your knees down to your yoga mat. We're going to come into a version of side plank. So pressing your right hand down into the earth, rotate your right knee so that right foot is off of your mat, and take your left foot to the back of your mat. Reach your left arm up toward the sky, stay right here for a little bit more challenge, crawl that right hand forward and lift your left leg into the air.

This is a bit like half moon pose, and what we're focusing on here is pressing that right hand down into the earth and lifting out of the right shoulder, expanding in all directions. Take two more breaths, feeling the strength in your body. And now let's switch sides, coming back to hands and knees. From there, rotate your left leg out, press your left hand into the ground, right leg goes back down your mat, extend your right arm up toward the sky. So welcome to stay right here or to crawl that left hand a little bit further forward, lifting your right leg into the air, reaching your right arm up toward the sky.

We're strengthening here the left rotator cuff by pushing that left hand down into the earth. Take two full breaths here, feeling your courage. And slowly come back to hands and knees. You are welcome to repeat that or we'll try a full side plank. Your full side plank coming into plank pose, front plank, push your right hand down onto the earth, pivot on your feet and extend your left arm up toward the sky.

Push your right hand down as you lift out of your right shoulder, expanding your whole body and taking a full breath. Good, two more. Last breath. Nice job. We'll go right to the second side.

Last hand is down on the mat, pivot on your toes, extend your right arm up toward the sky. If you have sensitive wrists, you are always welcome to do side plank on your elbows, on your forearms instead. Two more breaths. Last one. From there, everyone come into a front plank, bring your knees down to your mat and lower slowly down onto your belly.

We're going to set up for sphinx pose. Since sphinx pose, you have the tops of your feet on the mat, so your elbows are underneath or a little in front of your shoulders, spread your fingers wide apart, forearms parallel to one another. From there, roll your shoulders up, back, and down. With your forearms, press the earth straight down and also drag the mat toward you. Feel how that rolls your shoulder blades down and away from your ears.

Stay right here if this is plenty of strengthening for your shoulder girdle. If you want a little bit more strengthening, see if you can stay centered as we move our arms. You're going to keep your torso exactly where it is, bring your weight to that left forearm and see if you could actually lift your right arm off of the mat. Take an inhale here, really strengthening that left shoulder blade and as you exhale, slowly bringing the right forearm to the mat. Bring your shoulders away from the ear, reach your left arm forward, breathing in.

And exhale, slowly bring that forearm back to the mat. You can always just build strength here or we will do two more on each side. So inhale, stretching the right arm forward, exhale, slowly replacing the forearm, inhale, stretching your left arm forward, slowly putting the forearm back on the mat. Keep your torso right at the center, chest lifting, inhale, stretch your right arm forward exhale, slowly put it back down, pull the mat toward you, inhale, stretch your left arm forward and exhale, slowly release. Hold here in Sphinx pose right at the center, both arms working to push the mat away from you and also to pull the mat toward you.

Take an inhale and an exhale, slowly release. Pass yourself up to hands and knees for thread the needle. As you inhale, reach your right arm up toward the sky and as you exhale, glide that right arm underneath your body, resting down on the right side of your head. You might allow your eyes to close and feel the movement of your breath in the back of your lungs and down into your belly. Breathing your spine slightly by sending your hips back and then slowly switching sides.

Come back to hands and knees, send your left arm out to the side and then slide it underneath the body, resting now on the left side of your head and then filling up the shape of this pose with your breath, with your breathing. You might even feel the way the breath stretches your rib cage from the inside. Two more breaths, starting to slow down. From there, press your right hand into the earth in order to come back to hands and knees. From there, coming into a seated position.

Come to a cross-legged seat and feel welcome to sit up on a blanket if that would help you be comfortable here. Lengthen your spine as you come to seated and then taking your right hand to the earth on the right side, reach your left arm up and over. Feeling a stretch in the left side of your body, find a comfortable position for your head and neck and then feel the movement of your breathing in the same place where you feel the stretch. So expanding the left side of your rib cage and waist as you breathe in, softening as you breathe out. Two more breaths, just lengthening the left side of your body.

Feeling present in your body and we'll switch sides. So sitting up tall, bring the left hand to the mat on your left side, reach your right arm up and over, settle in with a comfortable position for your head and your neck. Begin to tune into the sensations of stretch and breath along the right side of your body. Feeling your rib cage expand as you breathe in and soften a bit as you breathe out. And one more breath.

Come all the way back to the center. From here, come down onto your back. We're going to set up for bridge pose. So when you come down onto your back, take a moment just to feel the earth underneath you. Knees are bent, feet are on the ground.

And then coming into bridge pose, press your feet down into the earth, lift your hips up into the air, lift your chest. You might choose to stay here. Some people really enjoy the version of this pose where you interlace the hands behind your back and snuggle your shoulder blades together. If that's true for you, feel welcome to explore that variation of the pose. For all of us, feeling our feet pressing the earth away and feeling the movement of the breath in the front of your body.

So the chest or the belly beginning to soften the muscles around your eyes and eyebrows and hinging your jaw. Two more breaths here truly means up to two more. The most advanced yoga practice is always the one where you're listening to your body. Finding the version of a pose that feels right for you. One more breath.

If you have your hands interlaced, slowly let go of that and unwind your shoulders coming all the way down onto your mat. Draw your knees in toward your belly and take a moment just to feel your low back broaden and flatten. You might even imagine you're sending some breath down into your low back. From here, reach your arms out to the sides like a T, softening your shoulder blades and the backs of your hands to the earth. And take your legs down to the right for a reclining twist.

Hanging your right hand on top of that left thigh if you like. Left arm is extended to the left. You might close your eyes here. Beginning to feel your breath like gentle ocean waves. Maybe noticing how the whole body subtly moves with each in breath and out breath.

Noticing perhaps the way the whole body is nourished by each inhale. Always with each exhale. One more breath. Switching sides, take your legs down toward the left. Extend your right arm toward the right.

Using your left hand on top of the right thigh, softening your shoulders, perhaps closing the eyes and settling in here with your breathing. Letting this moment feel effortless. Maybe even softening your fingers. One more breath. Let's come into final relaxation.

So coming onto your back, extending your legs long, arms out to the side with the palms of the hands facing upward. Take a few deep breaths where you exhale through your mouth. Way of letting go of any lingering effort. And just the gentle reminder that there's really no way to do this pose wrong. That's just enjoying your breathing.

If you have longer to stay in this relaxation, please feel very welcome to do so. If you'd like to take a formal close of today's class with me, roll to the side of your body. And then press yourself up to a comfortable seated position. Coming up to this comfortable seat, you could draw the palms of your hands together in front of your heart. You might allow your eyes to close for a moment longer.

And taking one more mindful breath, inhaling, feeling the breath coming in, exhaling, letting go. Thank you so much for your practice today. Namaste.


Jenny S
4 people like this.
I appreciate and enjoy your teaching style…your subtle tweaks and spins on the familiar poses make for some deceptively challenging work. In fact, you could say this class literally “had me on my toes” 😉🤣
Sara S
2 people like this.
That was nice
2 people like this.
Thank you Hattie for this whole series on back health. I have been having a lot of neck and shoulder tightness lately and these really help!
Sandra Židan
Lovely practice! Thanks, Hattie! Namaste! ❤️💖💗
Nina G
2 people like this.
Loved this! Thank you!
Kate M
1 person likes this.
I really enjoyed this practice, Hattie. Thoughtfully arranged sequences!

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