Postnatal Yoga Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 5

Refresh Your Shoulders

30 min - Practice


This class is a great antidote to the rounded posture we find ourselves in from various momming tasks, holding, breastfeeding, and caring for our little ones. We explore gentle heart, chest, neck, and shoulder openers designed to create freedom and relief in these areas, as well as strength and support in the shoulders and upper back. You will feel open, relieved, and supported from within. 
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Strap, Block (2)

About This Video


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Welcome. So glad you're here. This practice is designed to help refresh the shoulders and upper back and hopefully offer some relief and a bit more freedom up in this area. I know as moms we tend to spend a lot of time holding baby and in the front of the body rounding the upper back and shoulders with breastfeeding, with bottle feeding, caring for our little ones. So hopefully this offers a bit more breathing room and relief for the shoulders. It'll be helpful to have two blocks, a blanket or a towel and a strap.

And we'll start with a block under the head. You can also use a pillow and a rolled blanket or towel that'll go just beneath the shoulder blades. So begin to transition onto your back and lowering down slowly and bringing that block underneath your head. So the shoulders are releasing down towards the floor and you might wiggle around with your knees bent, grounding the feet just to make sure the support, that blanket beneath the shoulder blades feels just right for you and then letting the arms open up. Now you might stay with the feet on the floor, the knees bent to support your lower back or you might explore stretching your legs out if that feels good.

Taking up some space here. Allow for an inhale. Nice full exhale out of the mouth. Maybe there's a sigh. And just allowing yourself to arrive and settle in your practice, in your space, feeling the weight of your body land and getting the support just right for you.

Softening the back of the eyes and the jaw. Again, if there's any tenderness or achiness on the low back, allow your knees to bend. And you might keep the arms where they are. You might bend the arms a little bit, exploring a variation of cactus through the shoulders and maybe allowing your neck and head to gently move and roll from side to side. You'll be noticing how the sensation through the upper back changes with a few minutes here, with breath, with awareness.

Now as a mom, this shape feels like a counter pose to the daily life. Really nice and refreshing and essential to feel and remember this quality of opening in the upper back. A few more moments here. Notice the quality of the breath. If your legs are stretched out, go ahead and bring the legs about hips width apart and flex the feet.

So engaging the legs a bit, spreading the toes. With the arms out to your sides, if you'd like to, begin to draw the forearms towards each other. They might even touch, the palms might touch. And then just begin to let the arms open up wide, any amount. And then exhale, bring the hands, the forearms to touch or close to each other.

And then let the arms open up wide. Maybe one more, feel the front ribs draw down as the arms draw towards each other. This feels really good. Letting the arms open up nice and wide. Again, relax the effort, let the head gently roll from side to side.

You are certainly welcome to stay here as long as you'd like. When you feel ready to transition, go ahead and let your knees bend. Keep the weight of the head nice and heavy and just slowly roll to a side. You might pause for a beat. Use your top hand, press into the floor and just slowly transition up nice and easy.

Take a moment to pause. We'll transition onto the knees in a hero's pose or you can also do this standing if you'd like. We're going to find a bit more space through the shoulders. If you're working with a block in heroes or virasana, you might bring one to two blocks behind you. And I like to kind of roll the flesh out from the calves.

You can also do this in a comfortable seated position or standing as I mentioned. Taking a few moments to settle wherever you are. And let's just begin with the shoulders. So rolling the shoulders up, back and down. And I like to imagine here I'm just taking off like a heavy winter coat.

I'm like ugh. Rolling them up, back and down and feeling the whole upper body moving. So the ribs, the shoulders, getting into the shoulder blades and then let's reverse. Back, up and forward. Back, up and forward. Back, up and forward. One more.

And then let's go one at a time. So rolling the shoulders back one at a time. Breathing. And then reverse. Back, up and forward.

Getting into the shoulder blades. Back of the heart. Nice. And then release. Shake it out for a moment.

Reach the arms out. Let's roll the shoulders forward. Finding that internal rotation and then rolling the shoulders open. You might lift the heart. And then rolling the shoulders forward.

Maybe rounding the back like in cat. And then rolling the shoulders back. A few more like this. Just moving from the shoulder joints outward. Notice the quality of your breathing.

And then we'll do one arm in, one arm out. One arm in, one arm out. Make your branches growing outward and your gaze might follow. This is strengthening as well in the shoulders and arms. Come back to the center.

Press and reach out through the arms. Find that ease in the neck. Spread the fingers wide. Reach from the heart into the heels of your hands. And then draw the fingers in.

Stretch the top of the wrists. You might soften the chin down a little bit. Breathing in. Exhale. Release.

Inhale. Draw the shoulders up. Exhale. Drop them. Shake the arms out, the wrists out for a moment.

And let's pick up our strap. And bring your strap nice and wide between your hands. And we're going to inhale. Reach the arms up. And feel how you can find some length here.

So reaching and lengthening. Grounding through your sitting bones. Or if you're standing, press through the feet. Lengthen. Let's take it up out and over to the right.

Lengthening the left side body. Inhale back up to center. Lengthen over to the left. Opening, stretching the right side body. Inhale back up to center one more time over to the right.

Find a place where the neck feels good. Inhale back over to the left. Inhale back up to center. Exhale. Let the arms release.

Bring the hands a little wider on the straps. I'm going to open my strap up. And as you're ready, inhale the arms back up. Bring the hands a little wider. And then what would it feel like to let the strap move back a little bit?

And if you're going into a back bend here, like I am, see if you can draw your front ribs in and lengthen your tailbone down. So feeling that awareness, that integrity through your core. You might stay here. You might bring the hands a little further apart and experiment with bringing the strap back even more. You might look from side to side, finding ease in the neck.

And then just slowly, you might play with bringing the strap all the way behind you. And then ground through the sitting bones or the feet. Inhale, arms reach up. Exhale, arms release. Let's roll the shoulders up, back, and down.

And again, inhale the arms, the strap up. And then begin to kind of tease the arms back, maybe reaching from side to side. You might stay right where you are. You might release the strap down. Ground through the sitting bones or the feet if you're standing.

Inhale, arms back up. Exhale, arms release. And again, draw the shoulders up, back, and down. Let's do one more. Grounding, inhale, opening, lifting.

Find the spot that feels right for you. You might stay, you might continue to explore and investigate. If there's any pinching or strain, you might bring the hands a little wider apart. Inhale, back up as you're ready. And exhale, release.

Draw the shoulders up, back, and down. Nice work. Let's bring the strap off to the side. We'll do a little bit of neck work before we transition. So as you're ready, soften the chin down towards the chest and roll the right ear towards the right shoulder.

You might stay right here. You might reach the right arm up and then bring the fingertips right at the base of the skull on that left side and then gently soften the gaze, the head down towards the right. What would it feel like to reach out through your left fingertips? And you might roll the palm open and then find that internal rotation. You're also welcome to bend the elbow and bring the back of the hand right between the shoulder blades.

So you might play with that. Be very gentle here with the neck, really allowing gravity to assist in this stretching. Breathing into where you feel it. And as you're ready, you can release that left arm. Slowly release the right arm.

Roll the chin to the chest and then bring the left ear towards the left shoulder. And this might be enough. You might stay right here. You might reach the left palm up and bring the fingertips right at the base of the skull on that right side and gently let the weight of the head release down and to the left. Reaching your right fingertips out, you might roll the palm open.

You might find that internal rotation. And maybe even bending the elbow and bringing the back of the hand to the shoulder blades. Easy in the neck, the jaw, the face. Allow for an inhale. Nice generous exhale.

A few more moments here. Again, allowing gravity to assist. When you feel ready to release, release that left arm down, release the right arm, roll the chin back to the chest, and then gently let the head lift. It might feel a bit tender. Nice. Let's inhale, roll the shoulders up, back, and down.

Last thing we'll do here is to bring the fingertips right to the shoulders, the trap area. And then we're just gently going to feel the weight of the shoulders, the arms drawing down as you draw the head back and the chin in. And maybe play with gently lifting the chin and the gaze, offering some traction for the neck. I know I find my head and neck are constantly forward and down. So, just a little counter pose.

And then just slow release. Take a moment to pause and notice how it feels in your body. And as you're ready, we'll transition, removing the block. If you're standing, coming on down. And let's ease into a child's pose from here.

So, bring the knees wide, maybe the big toes to touch, and then just begin to kind of wiggle and soften the hips back towards the heels. Allow for an inhale. Exhale, softening the belly. Begin to walk the arms over to your left, rooting through your right fingers as you reach back for the right sitting bone. Taking a nice breath into the right side body, the lung, and stretching the intercostals, gall bladder meridian.

And as you're ready, walk the arms back to center and over to the right. Root through the left fingers as you reach back through the left sitting bone. Waking up the left side body into the shoulder blade. Nice breath into the left lung. And as you're ready, walk the arms back.

Let's inhale, come back into tabletop and you might have a blanket under your knees for support. Bring the feet nice and wide. Let's tuck our toes under to stretch the bottoms of the feet, the plantar fascia. And then we're just going to drop into the shoulder blades, protracting, press the floor away and lifting. And drop into the shoulder blades, press and lift.

A few times like this. Feel your ability to drop with the arms straight and then lift. One more time. Cat cow, exhale, let the back round. Tuck the toes under, draw the hips back towards the heels.

Feel that nice, dull, achy, wide stretch in the back body. Shoulders over the wrists, inhale, let the heart lift. Feel the space, the length. Exhale, round, stretch the back, hips towards the heels. Inhale, arch, lengthen.

And you might stay with this. You might lean from side to side, circling the hips, the ribs, the shoulder blades up into your neck. Inhale, feel the length and space. Exhale, curl round, stretch. Stay with this as long as you'd like to.

As you're ready, we'll lower onto the forearms. We'll do a little bit of strengthening for the upper body as well as our glutes. This is a fun one. So really press through the forearms, feel that integrity in your shoulders as you look down. And then as you're ready, we'll lift the left knee up off the floor.

Flex the foot, lift and then draw the knee in. And then lift the foot, the knee, and draw it in. Lift, keeping the ribs drawing in. Lift the leg, bend the knee, and draw it in. A few more.

Lift, draw it in. Lift, I'm really feeling this in the shoulders and the upper back. Lift and draw it in. Nice. Other side, lift the right leg up and then draw it in.

Lift and draw it in. Lift and draw it in. A few more. And just mindful that your lower back is not hyperextending, that you're drawing the abdominals in towards the spine. Finding a place where the neck feels good, the gaze feels good.

Lift and release. Nice. Come back up onto the hands, bring the knees a little closer together, and then let's just let the hips go side to side here after that work. Stretching the hips. And let's make a circle.

And then moving in the other direction. Nice. From here, let's go ahead and grab our two blocks. And you can also do this at the end of a couch or a chair. And from here, we're going to bring our elbows onto the blocks.

Walk our knees back in line with the hips. And then begin to draw the hips back towards the heels as we soften the chest, the heart towards the floor, releasing through the upper back. And your forehead might rest on the floor, it might be extending and lifting, getting a nice stretch through the shoulders, the upper back. Breathing, softening the jaw. Another moment here.

Good. And then as you're ready, slowly, carefully make your way up. And then from here, we're going to ease into downward dog. So you can keep your hands on the blocks, bring your feet wide apart, bend the knees, and just begin to reach and lift up through your sitting bones. Feel the weight of the head releasing here, breathing.

And you might stay here, you might walk the feet wide apart and ease into a hammock variation. So we're drawing the hips back, you can bend the knees, softening the heart towards the floor, releasing through the neck and head and feeling this nice dynamic stretch through the back of the legs, the spine is softening, big beautiful stretch in the shoulders. Breathing here. Drawing the hips away from the hands, heart softening and releasing. Take your time coming back into your downward dog, walking the feet in.

Kind of shimmy the hips, the sitting bones up towards the ceiling, and then slow lower the knees. And let's sit back for a child's pose with the hands on the blocks. Take a moment to press the palms into the blocks, feeling that nice spaciousness through the shoulder blades and the upper back. This feels amazing, how does it feel for you? Okay, and then slowly come on up.

All right, now we're going to move into a thread the needle for the shoulders. As you're ready, you can bring the shoulders over the wrists. We're going to inhale the right arm up towards the sky, and then exhale, thread the right arm through. Come down to the right side of the head, press down a little bit through the left palm as you wiggle and lengthen through the right arm and fingers. And you might stay right here, you might play with walking that left foot back or bringing the foot right out in line from the hip.

And then I like to press through the left palm and kind of spiral the bottom lung towards the ceiling and maybe even reach that top left arm overhead. Breathing in this twist. And you might play, if you want to feel a bit more sensation, if this isn't enough, you can play with kind of pressing the top left hand and arm into the floor, feeling that isometric stretch as you spiral open towards the sky. Inhale. To get out of here, we'll bend the top arm ground for the top left hand. Keep the weight of the head heavy as you slowly come back into the shape of tabletop.

Take a nice clearing breath. Inhale. Exhale. Let's find the other side. Inhale. Reach the left arm up. Exhale. Thread it all the way through. Come onto the left side of the head. You might press down through the right palm as you spin and spiral. Stay here or play with extending back through the right leg and then maybe reaching it out to the side.

So you feel that line from the right hip to the right foot pressing through the right hand. You might stay here or stretch the right arm overhead. And again, the option to press down through the top of the left arm and hand as you feel that stretch through the left shoulder blade. Make sure the neck is long and it feels good. A few more breaths here. And you're welcome to stay longer when you're ready.

Bend the top arm. Bring the right hand to the floor. Press through the right hand, head heavy, and then come back into your tabletop position. Draw the right knee in. It might feel nice to find a few rounds of Cat-Cow here. Inhale to arch. Exhale, curl round, stretch the back.

Inhale to arch. Exhale, curl round, stretch. And then as you're ready, let's lower nice and slow. And then bring the fingertips a little wider on the mat. So we're easing into like a cobra variation here, rolling up and down a few times. And we'll find some shoulder dips. So we'll dip the right shoulder forward.

And then come on up and dip the left shoulder forward. And come on up. And a few times side to side. You can let the elbows go wide here, dipping and releasing. And then come back to center and release into Sphinx Pose. Bringing the forearms in front of you, the elbows just forward of the wrists, legs just about hips width apart.

Feel how you can round the back, peel the ribs in like in Cat. And then releasing the belly, arching and lengthening. A few times like this, a little Cat-Cow movement through the spine. Releasing and then drawing the ribs in, rounding and releasing. It might feel good here to soften the chin towards the chest and roll the right ear towards the shoulder.

Rolling the chin to the chest and rolling the left ear towards the left shoulder. You might do that a few times. Exploring that sensation. And then from here as the head comes back into neutral, bend the right knee. So lift the right knee up like into a half-frog shape.

And we're going to thread the right arm through. And we're going to move towards a spinal twist. You're going to roll towards your back. And that top left knee is bent. And then bring that left arm forward and around and circle.

And you might have a blanket underneath your head for support, that might feel really nice. Circling that top arm a few times. And then releasing towards a twist if that feels good for your body. Maybe you're bringing the right hand onto the top left hip. Inhale and exhale, soften.

And you're welcome to stay longer. Slowly transition back into Sphinx with that half-frog shape. So rolling back into Sphinx on the forearms. It's kind of a fun transition. Slide that left leg back and then draw the right leg forward into half-frog.

As you're ready, weave the left arm through and begin to roll towards the spinal twist. You might roll off your mat here. And again, maybe there's support under your head. And then let that top arm circle a few times. Take that nice big stretch through the shoulder, the pec muscle, the arm.

Breathing into where you feel the stretch. And then maybe releasing that right arm as you settle into a twist for a few breaths. Inhale, exhale, softening the belly, feeling the back of the right lung and shoulder, releasing. And you're welcome to stay longer. When you feel ready, slowly unwind back into your half-frog Sphinx shape. Slide the right leg back, lower down, press the palms underneath you, lift up and all the way back into a Child's Pose.

And we'll pause here, bringing the knees wide, forehead towards the earth, settling, centering in this symmetrical shape. Offering ourselves towards the earth. And allowing yourself to rest here for a few moments. And when you feel ready to transition, slowly roll your way up. It might feel nice if you have the space to find Shavasana on your back, or you might join me in a seat to close the practice.

Maybe sitting up on support, or again, lying down, whatever feels right in this moment. Settling. And getting the alignment of your body just right for you. Allow for an inhale, generous exhale, softening through the shoulders and the jaw. Letting one hand rest on the belly, one hand on the heart.

Feeling the base of the skull gently floating back and up. Nice. Bring your hands together at the heart, allow for another inhale, nice full exhale. Thank you for being here and taking this time for yourself. Have a beautiful day.


Jenny S
2 people like this.
This is another one of those practices that can be beneficial for most of us 🌺 As you were speaking, my mind went back in time to those days of constantly rounding forward to pick up my little ones or to hug them (or to pick up after them 🥹) but even after my youngest was old enough to make his own sandwich,  I was now rounding forward over my computer and desk and that has never stopped.  So this class felt pretty wonderful today and my back, shoulders and neck say thank you!
Alana Mitnick
Jenny S I’m so happy to hear your back, shoulders, and neck feel better after this practice! As always, thank you so much for sharing your story and experience. Sending love. XoA
Sandra Židan
Thank you very much, Alana, for this nice and gentle practice for shoulder and chest opening! I really needed it! Namaste! ❤️🥰
Lina S
1 person likes this.
A feel-good class!
Alana Mitnick
Sandra Židan I’m so glad you enjoyed this practice! Shoulder and chest opening feels so good. Thank you for joining me! Namaste XoA 
Alana Mitnick
Lina S So lovely to practice together! I’m glad you enjoyed this one. Love, Alana 

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