yoga poses for shoulders and backs

Kate Kendall, lululemon Bondi ambassador in Australia, answers your yoga questions.
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you asked

I was involved in a car accident about 16 months ago, and am now in the long process of healing. The worst of my injuries is a nagging upper back and shoulder injury. Physical therapy and medication has only taken me so far and I wanted a more natural approach, so my doctor suggested yoga as a great way to stretch out those sore muscles and heal. Are there any particular restorative poses you can recommend for the upper back and shoulders?

Thanks so much!

kate answers

Hi Jenn.

I love your enthusiasm and your commitment to the healing process. Here are three beautiful, restorative pose that will help in the upper back and shoulders. Enjoy and learn from your healing process.

supported matseyasana (supported fish pose)

This pose opens the chest and extends the thoracic spine (which begins at the bump at the back of your neck). It’s intended to bring muscles back to their natural position and in time, tone, which is great for your recovery.

1. Grab two towels or blankets.
2. Roll them up, making one thicker than the other.
3. Lie flat on your back and place the smaller of the two towels underneath the bra-strap line.
4. Extend your legs and let the feet fall out naturally.

5. Place the thicker rolled-up towel under your head but be careful not to overextend the neck by lifting the chin too high or dropping it too low.
6. Now for blissing out: rest each arm at about a 45-degree angle away from hips and place palms up, allowing your shoulders to drop open. 

Simply breathe and relax. Let that be your mantra! “Breathe, relax.”

salamba balasana (supported child's pose)

1. Place blocks (or books) underneath the two ends of a bolster and come into Child's Pose, with your torso supported by the bolster.
2. Slide your arms underneath the gap between the bolster and the floor, sliding each hand toward the opposite elbow.

If the forearms or elbows don't touch the ground, fill in the space with towels or blankets so that you are supported from the elbows to the fingers. Magic.

garudasna (eagle) - arm variation only

A good one to do when sitting at a desk or in a chair when you have free time.

1. Sit tall in your seat, stretching your arms forward so that they are parallel to the floor and then spread your shoulder blades wide across the back of your torso.
2. Cross the arms in front so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows.
3. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other - or as close to as possible.
4. Now draw the elbows away and up in front of the face and at the same time draw the shoulder blades down the back so as not to hunch or create more tension in this area.
5. Close the eyes and breathe into the space between the shoulder blades.

Stay for ten breaths and then swap arms.

So Jenn - enjoy, bliss out and I wish you a healthy recovery.


more about kate

lululemon Bondi ambassador and yoga teacher, Kate teaches vinyasa style yoga and emphasizes the connection between breath and movement, infusing a natural blend of fun, light heartedness and strength into her sequencing, always encouraging her students to be mindful in their practice and nurture themselves.

Kate’s big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is to create the world’s most viewed wellness blog; a rich source for knowledge and inspiration – helpful tools for living more conscious and happy lives.

Her favourite lululemon manifesto quote: Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment.

Visit Kate's website at

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Kate, thanks so much for the response, I was very surprised (and excited!) to see this post this morning. I’m really excited to try these new poses, these are some great suggestions!
Thanks again! :)

Comment by Jenn — December 28, 2010 @ 10:30 am

I second the Thank You to Kate! I, too, was involved in a car accident in August of 2009, so approximately 16 months ago also and am experiencing pain in the same areas too, Jenn, so a big thank you to you too for asking this question!

Comment by Tiffany — December 29, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

Thanks for posting! I don’t have back or shoulder problems per se, but sometimes get very sore and stiff shoulders after a good body pump class. I love these poses and find them great to stretch and relax after an intense workout :-)

Comment by Rachel — January 1, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

Thanks so much! I love these poses. My lower back muscles get very sore and tight when running too much and too hard. This is a great way to keep those muscles lose!

Comment by Courtney Walberg — January 10, 2011 @ 8:56 am

Hi, I was wondering if you should do yoga with a pulled muscle in your back?
Thank you!

Comment by cheti — July 4, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

Hey Cheti,
Every injury is unique and your health and safety is important. It’s always best to chat with your yoga instructor about any issues or injuries you are having. Remember to take it easy and listen to what your bodies needs.


Comment by GEC Online — July 6, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

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