Untangle and decompress the highly overcharged upper back and shoulders with Yoga Tune Up®’s Reverse Crucifix pose featured in the video clip below.  This pose takes care of stretching and releasing tension in not only the teres minor and deltoids, both discussed in the previous blog, but it also stretches and relieves tension from the trapezius, rhomboids, the infraspinatus and literally every upper back and shoulder muscle.

To add on to the benefits of the Reverse Crucifix, consider adding in a Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball sequence to relieve the teres minor, a hot spot for tension.  You can use one Therapy Ball, a pair in a tote or an Alpha Ball to do the work.

Standing against the wall, start on one side at a time and place the ball(s) in the region of the teres minor. To find this area, take one hand and cross your chest and thread it underneath your armpit all the way to the beginnings of your back.   Where your fingertips/palm roughly land is in the region we want to target.  For a better idea of placement, visit this page.

Press your back against the wall to pin the ball and have the body at a slight angle.  First sustain compression allowing the body to mold over the ball.  Once you acclimate and take few deep breaths, bend your knees and move your body to allow the ball(s) to circle around the area.  After you take several rotations, find an area that is tender and sustain pressure here.  End with a small chug up and down by bending the knees and moving the ball up one inch and then down an inch from the targeted area.  Be sure to keep breathing as you roll out and take the time to stand still and notice the difference between the shoulders before you move onto the other side.

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Stephanie Leger

Stephanie Leger is a certified Yoga Tune Up® instructor and teaches therapeutic movement, yoga, breath work and meditation in a variety of settings - group classes, workshops and private sessions. She specializes in postpartum recovery as well as students working through injuries and chronic pain. Her sessions are thoughtfully designed to strengthen the body, promote healthy range of motion and improve flexibility. Stephanie's goal is to empower students to listen to their bodies so they are their own greatest advocate for health and well being. She is also the creator of a meditation series for kids, while also offering a host of recorded meditations for little ones and adults.

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Will try the pose with the ball routine, thanks for the advice!!

susan kjesbo

I find the Reverse Crucifix a bit difficult. Thanks for the rolling suggestions first. I love the addition of the videos showing various areas to roll out. The use of rolling at the corner of the wall is a great way to get into some of these unusual areas. Thanks.

Becky Battle

I definitely think a ball routine necessary to warm-up some of the used muscles of crucifix needed prior to doing this pose. Also, shoulder flossing may assist in warm-up for this difficult position for many. Great explanation on how to find teres minor that “any body” can do.

Michelle Officer

ahhhhh…Im exhaling just reading this, thank you!
I LOVE reverse crucifix for all its wonderful ability to unwind those shoulder muscles, but with the addition of your ball routine…brilliant! many thanks!

Line Bernier

Merci! Je vais adopter cette pose avec l’utilisation des balles en plus! Quelle bonne idée!


Great combination! Love the idea of rolling out the teres minor beforehand.

Marsha Marsha Marsha L.

Stephanie! Great article on relieving tension in my rotator cuffs. I took my balls to the wall and found my trees minor thanks to your description on where it’s located on my body, and went to town on it. I only spent a few minutes, but I feel so much better. I also did the reverse crucifix. I actually did that pose in one of my yoga classes in San Diego, by an instructor who introduced me to YTU. It was very relaxing, which is why I am now taking L1 Certification right now! =) Totally love it. Thanks for… Read more »

mimi martel

Love the reversed crucifix, specially how deep is the sigh after you release from the pose. I always feel a immense freedom from the respiratory muscles and the back of the rib cage afterward. As you hold the pose and the front of your rib cage get compress by your body weight, you are “obliged” to breath from the back of the body and aloud more movement in your back ribs, shoulder blades, intercoastals, trapezius, rhomboids, and multitude layers of back muscles. Each inhalation bring you to a deeper stretch and exhalation a deeper relaxation. For me it’s like a… Read more »

Ann F

Thank you for the info. We practiced the Reverse Crucifix the other night in class. one thing we didn’t do was to roll out the teres minor beforehand. the students found it very intense and alittle bit too much for them. i do have student who have large breasts. do you have a modification for this?

Lisa M.

I’ve taught this pose before, but with the palms face up. I learned it as Whale’s Tail (because your body/arms look like a whale’s tail). I do like the palms face down better. Some students who have larger breasts have a problem doing it because they feel like their breasts are being smashed. Also, when I do the pose, I really feel it in my deltoids, but not much in my back. Am I doing something wrong? Now that I have YTU balls, I can see how using them prior to this asana would warm up the upper back muscles.


This is the perfect stretch to use the evening after I’ve done multiple reps of lifting free weights. It will absolutely stretch out the teres major and minor so that I won’t be sore the next day.


I find this pose to be quite painful – and I’m not talking a pain in the back. I have hyper mobile shoulders and performing this posture creates a pinch around my coracoid process. Though I’m not exactly sure what is pinching and causing the pain, I would be interested to know if anyone else has a similar experience with this pose.


A good suggestion to try this one at the wall, with the Yoga Tune Up balls as well. I have only ever done this one on the ground but will give it a try at the wall to get to the rope-like rhomboids.


I find this pose lovely and yet I have my reservations about teaching it and using it. I wonder how it serves in a society where we constantly have over elongated upper back muscles due to slouching. What if one suffers from upper crossed syndrome? Are we not in this pose aggravating the slouching situation? Furthermore, what is the difference between palms facing down or up?


Matt – try the alpha ball in the lower back region either on the floor or up against the wall. Some of us have more pronounced lower backs and a regular YTU® ball doesn’t access it very well when we are up against the wall – it all depends on your body’s proportions. I also access the IT band against the wall with the alpha. Treat the leg in sections and chug up and down combing the tissues then pick an area that is tight or tender sustain compression after a few breathes pretend to kick a ball. It’ll rock… Read more »


Great post !! I just started getting into YTU… I have used the balls… actually started with just 2 tennis balls taped together to help roll out my back muscles. I finally discovered the YTU balls and have been working them into other muscles around the shoulders and upper back. I love this reverse crucifix, it shows another way to get a deep stretch into those muscles we put strain on everyday!! Thank you!


This is great! I love to teach this pose, but have failed to fall in love with a good warm up sequence for it. Rolling out the teres minor sounds like an amazing warm up for this pose, which does tend to be quite intense for many individuals! Thanks!


Thanks, Stephanie. I’ve taught Reverse Crucifix many times, but haven’t considered how to access the teres minor. Clearly Reverse Crucifix stretches and relieves tension in many of the shoulder and upper back muscles. Adding an approach to the teres minor is a plus. Also, I have not used the Alpha Ball yet as I couldn’t figure out where it would be appropriate. Now I’ve got at least one target area.


Thank you Stephanie for this informative blog post! I love reverse crucifix and it’s a great sell when you think about and can articulate to students all of the shoulder muscles that get relief. I love your point about using the YTU therapy balks in conjunction with the pose. Way to roll!