9 Yoga Poses to Open Your Shoulders

Offset the hunched-over effect of sitting at a desk all day by adding these shoulder-opening yoga poses to your practice.

Who doesn't have a cranky neck, back, or set of shoulders? Whether it's from an injury, full days spent slumped at a desk, or even walking down the street, hunching is the body's natural way of protecting itself from outsiders by physically closing off access to the vital organs.

If you want to fix the poor posture and pain that comes from that natural hunch, there are some simple things you can do. Any time you notice that you are slouching forward, try to take a moment to roll your shoulders back and take a deep breath. Or, try these yoga shoulder openers for a quick fix — your shoulders will drop, your chest will open, and your breath will start to come deeper and more easily.

The 9 Best Yoga Shoulder Openers to Try

How it works: Pick any three (or more if you have time) of these yoga shoulder stretches and do a set or two of them when you feel shoulder pain or notice that you've been slouched forward. Alternately, add some or all of these shoulder openers to your regular yoga practice.

You'll need: A yoga block (optional)

Forward Fold with Clasp

A. Stand, clasp hands behind back, and take a big inhale to open chest.

B. On the exhale, soften knees and fold forward, letting head fall toward the ground and gently releasing neck. Reach clasped hands over head and down as far as feels good.

C. If this feels comfortable, bend one knee and then the other to get more into shoulders.

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.

(Also try these yoga postures to correct "tech neck.")


A. Start on hands and knees with toes tucked under, then bend elbows and place forearms on the ground, parallel to each other and shoulders-width apart (to measure shoulders-width distance, hold elbows with opposite hands as shown).

B. Drop head and lift off knees, bringing weight into forearms and feet (pose should resemble a downward dog, except on forearms instead of palms). Reach chest back through arms in the direction of feet to enhance shoulder opening.

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.

Reverse Prayer

A. Sit comfortably, then float arms down to either side of body and, bending elbows, reach arms behind back. Press palms together in a prayer position on spine.

B. Reach hands as high up spine as feels good.

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.


A. Stand tall with feet together, then hug left knee up to chest.

B. Bend right knee and cross left leg around right leg, hooking left foot on either side of right leg (whichever side feels comfortable). Wrap left arm under right arm.

C. Sit down as low as possible and lift up through arms to stay balanced, reaching elbows and fingertips up and away from face. (If preferred, just do the arms pose without the legs in a seated position.)

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths. Unwind and repeat on other side.


A. Lie facedown to start, then bend knees and grab ankles.

B. Press feet into hands, keeping knees hips-width apart, and lift chest off the ground.

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.

Cow Face

A. Kneel and reach right arm toward the ceiling, then bend right elbow and allow right hand to fall between shoulder blades.

B. Bring left hand to right elbow and allow weight of hand to deepen the shoulder opening (don't push).

C. If this feels easy, bring left arm down, bend the elbow, and reach left hand up the center of back, taking hold of right hand. Lean back slightly into arms, taking care that right arm isn't putting any pressure on neck.

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.

Thread the Needle

A. Start on hands and knees, then reach right arm underneath body, allowing right shoulder and temple to release to the ground.

B. Allow left hand to stay where it is, or crawl it over a bit to the right toward head.

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths. Unwind and repeat on other side.


A. Lie facedown to start, then lift torso and thread right arm underneath left at shoulders height, about a 90-degree angle away from body.

B. Reach left arm in the opposite direction (again, about a 90-degree angle away from body). Hook chin over shoulders.

C. Walk fingers away from one another to lengthen arms.

Breathe here for 5 deep breaths. Unwind and repeat on other side.


A. Lie facedown to start, then reach left arm out at a 90-degree angle from body with palm facing upward.

B. Use right hand under right shoulder to start to press away from the ground, bending right knee. If comfortable, reach left toes behind left knee while rotating body.

C. Reach right arm to ceiling, flex palm, and allow hand to fall toward the ground with gravity. Breathe here for as long as feels comfortable.

D. If there's enough space, allow right hand to meet the left in a clasp. Warning: This is a deep one, so come out of the pose slowly and mindfully.

Breathe here for as long as feels comfortable. Unwind and repeat on other side.

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