5 Yoga Poses for Shoulder Joint Health

Cow Face Arms is a great stretch and good for developing shoulder joint health.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. Technically called the glenohumeral joint, the shoulder is where the humerus (upper arm bone) meets the glenoid fossa (a small indent in the scapula or shoulder blade).

The glenohumeral joint is a ball-and-socket synovial joint, which allows for movement in all directions (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation, external rotation, and circumduction). The ball (the head of the humerus) sits shallowly in the socket (the glenoid fossa). This minimal contact between the bones allows for a lot of motion.

Anatomy illustration of the Shoulder Girdle


And this is great news for shoulder joint health because joints love to move! Synovial joints absorb nutrients and remove waste and debris through movement and the production of synovial fluid.

Of course, however, there’s always a delicate balance needed in the body to maintain optimal joint health. Shoulders need both mobility and stability. So it’s wise to stretch and strengthen all angles of the joint to find optimal health. And luckily, there are many yoga poses for shoulders that can help optimize shoulder joint health.

Practice These 5 Yoga Poses for Shoulder Joint Health

Movement truly is medicine, so move your shoulders through their full range of motion while simultaneously strengthening in these five yoga postures.

1. Cow Face Arms Pose (Gomukhasana Arms)

Side view of Yoga's Cow Face Arms

This arm positioning moves your shoulders in almost all of their possible ranges—internal rotation, external rotation, flexion, extension, and adduction—so it’s definitely a good position to add to your repertoire of yoga poses for shoulder joint health.

  1. Come into any comfortable seated position and lengthen your spine.
  2. Stretch your right arm up to the sky and bend your elbow deeply to slide your right hand down your back. Turn your palm to face your back.
  3. Use your left hand to catch hold of your right elbow and gently draw it in toward the midline of your body.
  4. Softly press the weight of your head back against your right arm.
  5. Keep your right arm as it is, and release your left arm down. Face your palm behind you and bend your elbow deeply to slide your left hand up your back.
  6. Option to hold a strap between your hands, hold onto your shirt, or interlace your fingers behind you.
  7. Lengthen your back body as you gently press the back of your head into your upper arm and your ribs into your lower arm.
  8. Pause and hold for a few deep breaths before switching sides.

2. Eagle Arms Pose (Garudasana Arms)

Eagle Arms helps keep shoulder joints healthy, lubricated, and mobile

This arm variation creates external rotation and adduction as well as gentle compression within the shoulder joint.

  1. Come into any comfortable seated position and lengthen your spine.
  2. Reach your arms out wide toward your sides like wings, and then wrap your arms around each other with your right arm on top as if you’re giving yourself a hug.
  3. Walk your hands toward each other on your back body.
  4. Option to stay as you are or the option to keep your elbows together as you lift your hands toward the sky and press your forearms against each other.
  5. Option to again stay as you are or to double wrap your wrists around each other to bring the backs of your hands or your palms to meet.
  6. Wherever you are, lengthen your spine and reach your elbows toward the sky. If your arms are wrapped in a bind, then press your forearms away from your face and squeeze your elbows toward each other.
  7. Hold for a few deep breaths before switching sides.

3. Broken Wing Pose

Broken Wing Pose is a great shoulder stretch

Stretch into the front of your chest with this posture that moves your shoulders into abduction. This is one of the best yoga poses for shoulder stretching.

  1. Start lying down on your belly and reach your arms out wide into a T shape with your palms facing the floor.
  2. Bend your right elbow and slide your right palm underneath your right shoulder.
  3. Gently press into your right hand to lift the right side of your body off the floor and roll over onto your left hip and left shoulder.
  4. Option to stay as you are or bend your left elbow to a roughly 90-degree angle.
  5. Hold for a few deep breaths before switching sides.

4. Plank Pose (Phalakasana) for Shoulder Joint Health

A Plank Pose variation that is good pose for shoulder joint health

While stretching your shoulders and moving into various ranges of motion is important for optimal shoulder health, it’s also equally important to strengthen the same musculature surrounding your shoulders with yoga poses for shoulder strengthening. Weight-bearing on your arms in postures like Plank Pose is an excellent way to do this within a yoga practice.

  1. Start on all fours with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees.
  2. Three-dimensionally cinch in around your center to feel your core engage.
  3. Root firmly into both palms and lift your knees off the floor.
  4. Step your right foot back behind you, followed by your left, until you are balancing on the balls of your feet in a long, plumb line through your body.
  5. Kick back through your heels, hug your legs in toward each other, press firmly against your palms, and stretch the crown of your head forward.
  6. Actively press your hands against the floor to gently draw your shoulder blades apart from each other.
  7. Option to intensify the strengthening through your shoulders by lifting one foot of the floor at a time and actively kicking your foot toward the back of your mat.
  8. Pause and hold for a few deep breaths before moving on to the next pose.

5. Low Yogic Push-Up (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Chauranga Dandasana is a yoga pose that helps strengthen the entire shoulder joint area

Another deeply strengthening posture for the entire shoulder girdle, Chaturanga Dandasana, works to stabilize the head of the humerus within its delicate positioning inside the glenoid fossa, engaging multiple muscles around the shoulder joint.

  1. From Plank Pose, roll your weight forward toward the tips of your toes and shift your shoulders past the crease of your wrists. Option to release your knees to the floor.
  2. Keep your core firm and active as you bend your elbows straight behind you and lower your body to a point where you still feel strong and stable.
  3. Engage across your whole body to create lines of tension to support your shoulders in this shape.
  4. Hold for a breath or two before either lowering all the way to the floor or pressing the floor away to lift back up into Plank Pose.

Stretching and Strengthening Yoga Poses for Shoulder Joint Health

The shoulder joints crave both movement and strength to support those yoga poses and everyday functional movements. So for optimal shoulder health, give your shoulders both the stretches they crave and the strength they need to support optimal health within the joints.

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP, yoga writer

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.

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