Unlocking the Shoulders
Shoulders, Flexibility, Mobility

This shoulder opening yoga sequence focuses on Controlled Articular Rotations and Extended Side Angle variations.

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Warrior 1 (Virabhadransana I)

Step the right foot to the back of the mat and bend into the front knee. The back (right) foot should be at a 45-degree, allowing the hips to remain facing the front of the mat. Bring the hands to the hips to assure both hip bones are facing forward. Then slightly tuck the pelvis to bring the arch out of the low back, and reach the arms upwards.

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Shoulder CAR in Warrior 1, Part 1

From Warrior 1, allow the left arm to come down by the side and reach the right arm straightforward. From here, we’ll begin a controlled articular rotation (CAR) of the right shoulder, moving it through its entire range of motion. The first part of this rotation is protraction. To find protraction, reach the arm as far forward as possible without moving the chest or position of the upper body. The goal is to isolate the shoulder and pull the scapula forward, bringing it off the back and towards the ribs. Pause here for a moment.

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Next, begin to lift the right arm upwards into elevation. This means reaching through the shoulder without lowering the opposite shoulder or repositioning the upper body. Once you’ve reached elevation, pause, and then internally (counter clockwise) rotate the arm so that the palm faces outwards. This will prepare you for the next movement.

Shoulder CAR in Warrior 1, Part 2

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Shoulder CAR in Warrior 1, Part 3

With the arm rotated, begin moving it backwards into retraction. As you reach backwards, the shoulder blades will pull together on the back. Work to bring the arm straight backwards as much as possible. Be careful not to turn the chest as you reach. Instead, isolate the movement in the shoulder.

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Shoulder CAR in Warrior 1, Part 4

Finally, with the arm still rotated (bicep facing outwards), bring it down by your side into depression. Pull the fingertips towards the floor so that the scapula works down the back. From here, move back through each arm position until you arrive back where you started. Then reach the arms back up into a regular Warrior I. Feel the difference in openness between your two shoulders immediately after the movement. CARS are a great exercise to do throughout the day in a regular standing position, for shoulder health and mobility.

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Extended Side Angle Variation

From Warrior 1, place the back of your left hand on your lower back. Then lean the upper body forward, and bring the left elbow onto the inside of your left thigh. This will provide a fairly intense shoulder opening. If you like, feel free to reach the right arm overhead into a modified Extended Side Angle position.

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Extended Side Angle with Half Bind

Lift the upper body and release the left arm, while remaining bent in the left knee. Now find a half bind with the right arm by reaching the right hand behind the back and tucking the fingers into the left hip crease. From here, bend back into your Extended Side Angle pose. The left hand can come to the ground on the inside of the bent leg. Work to rotate the mid-body so that the right shoulder points up towards the ceiling.

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Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)

Lift the upper body and release the right arm. Maintaining the bend in the left leg, reach the left arm in a large arc overhead. The right hand can come to rest gently on the back of the right leg. Feel the opening in the left side body and oblique.

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High Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Cartwheel the arms forward out of your Reverse Warrior and bring them to the ground, framing your front (left) foot. Stay on the ball of the back foot. Extend upwards through the crown of the head to lengthen and straighten the spine as you pull the shoulder blades down the back. Flex into the right thigh to bring the back leg straight, while pulling the navel towards the spine and sinking the hips

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Puppy (Uttana Shishosana)

From High Lunge, step the left foot back and sink the knees down to the mat. Begin to walk the arms forward while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. This will look similar to Child’s Pose (Balasana), however with the hips will be up in the air. Then, begin to sink the chin and chest towards the ground, finding a deep opening in the shoulders. For a more active posture, remain engaged through the arms and press firmly through the palms and fingertips as your chest and chin reach downwards. From here, move through a vinayasa or return to standing, then repeat on the other side.