Yoga Practice

My yoga trouble spot: Tight shoulders

I hold most of my stress and tension in my neck and shoulders. I can’t help it. My body does it all on its own. I sometimes catch myself when I’m tense at work with my shoulders all bunched up near my ears. Maybe it’s the sedentary work life of sitting behind a computer all day. Maybe it’s years of playing volleyball (I was mostly a setter, but eventually worked on hitting from the right side, opposite the setter), which requires a lot of shoulder strength.

In any case, I have very tight shoulders. My left side seems to be looser than my right. I do everything with my right arm in sports: serving, hitting, throwing, shooting, bowling. It really is no wonder that I have major issues with my dominant side.

It also makes for an uneven yoga practice. In cow face pose (Gomukhasana), I cannot for the life of me touch my hands together. The closest I’ve gotten is maybe the tips of my fingers. In the marichiyasana binds, I can get my hands together, but that’s mostly from the flexibility of the forward fold. It took about 2 years to get there. However, now that I’ve lost some flexibility, I have work to do to get there again. Hands in reverse prayer? My left arm seems to find its way back there easier than my right. I suspect some arm and back fat get in the way of that hand position too.

I don’t know if the tightness in my shoulders is something that will take another 5-10 years before they open up or if I’m doomed because of my sports play in the past. Should I work on opening my chest and find more range of motion in my rotator cuffs? If any of you teachers out there have some insight into this, I’d love to hear it!

Anyone else with a trouble spot you’re working on?

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  1. Lindsay says

    Tight shoulders are a tough one. It takes conscious and mindful effort to bring your shoulders out of your ears at ALL times. Not just while on your mat. During my yoga practice I find myself “trying too hard”. I strain to get my arms perfectly straight and biceps towards my ears in utkatasana. I tighten every muscle to be the tightest warrrior I can be. However, as I was once told, some of us need to teach our muscles to engage and work harder and some of us need to teach our muscles how to relax. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose which one you are. During your next practice, see if you can strike a balance between having engaged muscles and straining your muscles to be as tight as they can possibly be. Next Wednesday, I can give you some stretches that have helped me immensely.

    • Terri says

      oooh, looking forward to next wednesday!

  2. Pingback: Week 8 of Yoga Teacher Training: The capacity of our anatomy | Finding Drishti

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