Yoga Positions That Strengthen the Back and Shoulder Areas

yoga positions

A backbend that strengthens the shoulders and chest, this yoga posture is great for reducing stress and anxiety. It also stretches the hip flexors and abdominal muscles.

This is an easy pose that can help you counteract the effects of hours spent parked at your desk. It also helps stretch and strengthen the hips, quads, calves and ankles.

Bridge Pose

Bridge pose helps strengthen the muscles of the lower back, neck and upper shoulders. It can be a restorative posture for those who spend many hours hunched over computers and other devices, causing the shoulders to round and droop forward.

Bridge is also beneficial for those with osteoporosis, as it can help prevent pain caused by a decrease in the strength of the spine. This pose can also be used to improve balance and strength, which can reduce the risk of falls.

For those who are experiencing difficulties with bending the hips in bridge pose, a block can be placed between the knees. This creates a stronger variation of the pose and also works the inner thigh muscles. Those with lower back injuries should avoid this position.

Cobra Pose

Often woven into Sun Salutations, Cobra is an energizing backbend that strengthens and tones the shoulders, abdomen, and buttocks. It also helps relieve stress and fatigue by bringing the body into the parasympathetic state.

It’s a great pose to incorporate into a yoga flow, or as a stand-alone posture to open the chest and shoulders. It’s one of the milder backbends, so it’s a good option for beginners or anyone with stiff spines and shoulders.

If you have a neck injury, avoid practicing Cobra, and instead focus on a heart-opening pose like Boat Pose (Navasana). To help the shoulders relax in the pose, add a hisss breath that focuses attention on the back muscles and lengthens the spine. To further deepen the pose, press into your hands to lift the chest higher.

Extended Side Angle

This posture is great for building muscle endurance across the entire body. It’s a good stretch for the legs, the core and the arms, and it helps to strengthen the back leg.

It’s important to note that the arms should not be locked out in this pose. This can weaken the shoulders and potentially cause nerve impingement. The arms should be soft at the elbows and actively stretched away from each other.

Extended Side Angle is a wonderful standing posture that challenges balance and encourages the flexing of the spine. It opens the hips and lengthens the side body, which can help prepare the practitioner for more challenging poses. It also stimulates the abdominal muscles and improves digestion. This pose can be beneficial for people with sciatica, low back pain and menstrual discomfort.

Pyramid Pose

Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana) stretches the back muscles of the body and strengthens the hip muscles. It improves balance and coordination, and can help you correct poor posture. It also stimulates the abdominal organs and aids digestion and detoxification. This pose is a great alternative to forward bends that might be too challenging for people with back injuries or high blood pressure. For those with hip or shoulder injuries, it is advisable to practice this pose only when your torso is parallel with the ground. Place your hands on the floor or on blocks, if needed, to reduce the intensity of the forward bend.

It is recommended to warm up before practicing this pose with a few ballistic stretching movements like Sun Salutations. This will prepare the body for Pyramid Pose, and allow you to extend your back more easily.

Triangle Pose

Triangle pose is a powerful, strengthening posture that opens the chest and strengthens the shoulders. It also builds balance and stability in the hips and thighs. It’s best for fit people, but it can be used as a form of therapy to help those with back pain and to improve posture.

To do this pose, start in Mountain Pose with feet about a foot apart and extend your arms in a T shape. Slowly bring your torso toward your front leg. If you can’t reach your lower hand all the way to your shin or ankle, rest it on a block instead. Avoid resting your bottom hand directly on your knee, as it puts too much pressure on the joint. This is called Extended Triangle Pose, or Utthita Trikonasana.