Use a simple yoga strap to regain mobility and flexibility in your shoulders with these easy stretches.
Does sitting at a desk all day leave your shoulders feeling stiff, tight, and hunched forward? Or are you are recovering from a shoulder injury that has led to stiffness and decreased shoulder mobility No matter the cause, it’s no fun feeling hunched over in pain.
Enter the yoga strap – also known as a flexibility strap. Yoga straps are more than just a prop for yoga beginners – they are extremely useful for increasing flexibility and mobility for all levels of yogis and non-yogis.
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The shoulder joint is a complex one. It is shallow and loose, making it the most mobile joint in the body. The Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Subscapularis – also known as the SITS muscles – are the rotator cuff muscles that support and stabilize this joint. When we find ourselves in a constant state of sitting with the shoulders and chest rounding forward, then the rotator cuff muscles and the pecs begin to tighten and we start to lose mobility, making it hard to lift our arms up above the head or out to the sides.
So, if you’ve experienced a loss of mobility from sitting or a previous injury and you have found that your shoulders are rounding, your chin is jutting forward, and your neck is starting to ache, grab a yoga strap and get started with these seven easy stretches.
Standing Circles | 5 breaths per side
This exercise warms the upper back and the shoulder joints, and awakens the core.
- Start standing with your feet hip-width distance apart. Bend your knees slightly and engage your abs.
- Hold the strap overhead with your hands a few feet apart.
- Take a deep inhale, then exhale as you take a big clockwise circle, coming back up to the top on your inhale.
- Repeat for five breaths and then go counterclockwise for five more breaths.
Shoulder Rotations | 8 reps
This strap exercise warms the SITS muscles and helps increase total shoulder mobility.
- Begin kneeling down on a mat with your knees together. Sit your hips back on your heels and lift your chest to an upright position.
- Hold the ends of the strap wide with both hands in front of your thighs. Keep your arms straight and inhale to bring the strap up above your head.
- Exhale to lower the strap behind your back. Your arms should stay pretty straight the whole time. If you need to bend your elbows to take the strap behind you, then take your hands out wider.
- Inhale to bring the strap back overhead. Then, exhale to lower the strap back in front of you.
- Continue for eight repetitions.
Half-Moon Arms (Side) | 5 breaths per side
This stretch releases tightness in the SITS muscles, the lats, and the intercostals.
- Begin kneeling down on a mat with your knees together. Sit your hips back on your heels and lift your chest to an upright position. Engage your abs. Hold the strap overhead with your hands a couple of feet apart.
- Take a deep inhale, then exhale to reach your arms up and over to the right, bringing your left bicep to your left ear. You should feel a stretch through the left shoulder and lat.
- Inhale here, then reach further to the right, lengthening the left side of your body even more.
- Hold for five breaths, feeling a stretch through the left shoulder, intercostal muscles, and the lat. Then, inhale back up to the starting position.
- Repeat on the left side.
Half Moon Arms (Front) | 5 breaths per side
While performing this stretch, you should feel a nice release through the Supraspinatus.
- Begin kneeling down on a mat with your knees together. Sit your hips back on your heels and lift your chest to an upright position. Engage your abs and hold the strap overhead with your hands a couple of feet apart.
- Rotate your right arm back at a 45-degree angle and your left arm forward at a 45-degree angle. Take an inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale and gently pull back with your right arm so that your left bicep comes next to your left ear. You should feel a stretch through the top and front of your left shoulder.
- Hold for five rounds of breath, then inhale back up to the starting position.
- Repeat on the left side.
Cow Face Arms | 8 breaths
This stretch helps improve the overhead motion of the shoulder joint and helps to release tension through the front of the shoulder, the triceps, and the lats.
- Begin kneeling down on a mat with your knees together. Sit your hips back on your heels and lift your chest to an upright position. Engage your abs.
- Hold the strap in your right hand. Reach your right arm up overhead and then bend your elbow to lower your right hand and the strap down your upper back.
- Bring your left arm behind your lower back and bend the elbow to reach your left hand up to grab ahold of the other end of the strap.
- Walk your hands as close together as you can. Keep your abs engaged and gently press the back of your head into your right forearm.
- Hold for eight slow breaths and then release. Switch sides.
Bound Wide-Legged Forward Fold | 8 breaths
This yoga pose helps open up the front of the shoulders and chest and works to increase mobility of the shoulder joint.
- Start by standing up with your feet out wide. Point all ten toes forward so that your feet are parallel.
- Holding the strap in one hand, bring it behind your back and then grab the other end of the strap in your other hand. You should start to feel a stretch through the front of your shoulders.
- Bend your knees and exhale to fold your chest towards the ground. Keep your hands away from your lower back to help open up the shoulders. Allow your weight to shift towards the balls of your feet and hold for eight breaths.
- To release, take an inhale to stand back up.
Strap Backpack | 5-10 min
Use this method while sitting at your desk, driving, or lounging around your house to reverse poor posture and open up tight shoulders.
- Start by taking the strap behind your back so that it rests along the bottoms of your shoulder blades.
- Bring the ends of the strap underneath your armpits and out in front of you. Then bring the ends of the strap up and over your shoulders so that they look like backpack straps.
- Cross the straps between your shoulder blades so that they make an X. Then, pull the ends of the straps down and away from each other to feel your posture straighten and your trapezius release.
- Bring the ends of the strap back around the front of your body and buckle them together in front of your ribs. Make sure it is just tight enough that your spine feels erect.
- Keep your strap backpack on for 5-10 minutes.
(Your Next Workout: 9 Mobility Exercises to Soothe Shoulder Pain)