Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of allowing the shoulder and arms to move freely while walking. Even though our shoulders don’t move into their full ranges of motion during walking, they can still move toward them. Here’s a little story about how moving a little past my walking range of motion helped reset a tight, dropped, rolled forward shoulder.
As a side sleeper, I often feel like many of my shoulder injuries happen in my sleep. A few months ago, I woke up with a tight and sore right shoulder that lingered for a few days. I also noticed that my right shoulder was pulled down and rolled forward. Clearly my rotator cuff was not doing its job while my pecs and other anterior shoulder muscles were working overtime. Common sense would say that I needed to strengthen my rotator cuff to rebalance my shoulder, but at that particular moment those kinds of exercises didn’t feel good. Borrowing a line from one of my teachers and founder of Anatomy in Motion, Gary Ward, I actually needed to travel further into the dysfunction to be able to get out of it.
I was playing around with a classic Yoga Tune Up® pose called Propeller Arms when I felt a massive stretch in the front of my right shoulder as my right arm reached back into extension and internal rotation. As my arm came back to neutral, it felt like my entire shoulder had realigned itself. It was almost as if it was craving that stretch for weeks and now that it was satisfied, was happy to go back to normal.
Since every shoulder is different, here’s a list of awesome Yoga Tune Up® poses and rolling techniques that will reset your shoulders in no time. Hopefully one or all of them will provide you relief!
Start by refreshing and rinsing your shoulders with Sequence 11 in Jill’s book The Roll Model, Shoulder-Rotator Cuff (p. 292-302) – pay special attention to the subscapularis, subclavius, and pectoralis minor. Shoulder Flossing is the check and recheck, so be sure to do that part too. Focus on the external rotation of the humerus as your arm goes overhead and the internal rotation of the humerus as it travels behind you. Check out this awesome version of Shoulder Flossing with a stretchy band:
Finally, set your shoulders free with Propeller arms followed by a walk or hike sans backpack, purse, or phone and feel the new found freedom and power in your stride!
Ahh I just did these exercises – they feel so great! I especially like using the theraband – it feels easier to get some shoulder depression before/during/after I go through the flexion/overhead into extension.
Thank u !
Great in class activation both Propeller arms and flossing. My students love them both and used them as a warm up in the gym. Propeller arm is a good proprioception excersise.
Propellor arms is an incredible shoulder warm up! It is amazing how these slight yet important movements make such a difference in overall performance. I tried propellor arms for the first time at the gym this morning and showed my boyfriend how to do them as well, he was amazed!
Your comment about shoulder injuries occurring during your sleep really resonated with me. I am also a side sleeper and find I wake with wonky shoulders on occasion. Thanks for the suggestions to use propeller arms and shoulder flossing.
I am a side sleeper too. I find the propeller arms works very well for me, not only for stretching but also relaxing. As I have pretty flexible shoulders, I sometimes feel the flossing version is a bit intimidating, while knowing that it is a great way to reset the tightness and improve the range of motion. Thank you for the article!
Love shoulder flossing, it can be done using a towel or yoga strap. Great way to warm up before a group practice.
Hi Melinda! Thank you for posting this. We did this this in our Level 1 workshop today & it was good to review it. And I have the same shoulder pain in my sleep too! I’m glad now I have the right tool to make sure my shoulders stay healthy 🙂
I can totally relate to this post. My right shoulder is in constant pain for the past couple years from working desk job in the past as well as sleeping on my side. I will definitely do this in my regular routine and see if it alleviate the source of the problem.
I will definitely try the shoulder flossing with rubber band. Thanks for the tip
Thank you! Thank you to opening the door that…
It’s not the same for all the body.
It’s not one protocole fit all.
And exploring movement in different directions can give answers and empowerment if you listen properly.
Great article! Love your post! ( All of them! :-))
As a side sleeper myself I wake up many a morning with overly protracted right shoulder and spend days in agony. I have to admit when I was first asked (well told) to do shoulder flossing in a class I cringed at the thought. How could anyone want me to move my shoulder in that position when it was so tight and pulled forward. For the first bit it was uncomfortable but then as I worked through it, the shoulder felt better.
Propeller arms – well don’t quite have the coordination for that yet. But will definitely it a try again.
Thanks again for the great post!
I am a side sleeper as well and recently woke up with my right shoulder in extreme pain. I will use the propeller arms and the shoulder flossing in the future if it happens again. Thank you!
Ok you now got me curious with this article, will have to try these exercises for sure. I used to be a side sleeper as well but after my shoulder injury, I adopted sleeping on my back with one of those cervical pillow which allowed neck to rest comfortable and head to stay neutral and now cannot go back to sleeping on my side. Anyhow a lot of shoulder rolling and specially the serrates anterior helped releasing tension on should and pain went away but this doesn’t mean I have to stop here, so introducing new way of keeping your shoulder healthy is always a plus so will apply what you suggested in this article. Thanks!
Shoulderflossing is an excellent tool to ‘spot’ issues on one’s shoulders. Glad to be taught by Jill to be able to assess and see things.
In my last yoga retreat I had a client who could not perform the shoulderflossing on the left side. AFter the session I asked her about any injury. She was pleasantly surprised that I had noticed it, since never ever in her yoga classes a teacher had noticed and approached her like this and offered modifications. Her range of movemet with scar issue was impeeded.. Shoulder flossing is also great to gently warm up shoulders.
I appreciate the instruction/idea you borrow from Gary Ward, of needing “to travel further into the dysfunction to be able to get out of it.” It’s helpful for me for self practice, but I would have to think more about how to communicate it to students in a way that doesn’t become the familiar “no pain, no gain” mentality of some movement modalities. Just like our bodies, our minds are so used to one (easy) method that it’s difficult to receive different information.
I work with pregnant women and one of their main complaints is lack of good, restful sleep because of various aches and pains in the shoulders and hips from side sleeping. I usually get them to do shoulder flossing with a dowel or strap but I love the idea of getting them to do it with a TheraBand so that they can have a wee bit more freedom in the movement.
When I was first introduced to YTU by Lisa Hebert, the shoulder variation 2 was on of the exercises that we did together. I love how the external rotation of my shoulders really increases my range of motion. It’s definitely one that I like to show my “office” friends.
I like the idea of the thera band, it takes the stress out of how much tension I should or should not hold during the flossing!
My shoulders have gone through a lot of wear and tear from gymnastics and acrobatics training, as well as wieght lifting and calisthenics. Shoulder flossing is essential to keep full range of motion in all movement patterns.
Throughout my Level 1 training, I have been noticing tightness in my right shoulder as well. Last night, as I snuggled in bed a little light bulb went off — I received messages from my trapezius, deltoid, infraspinatus and supraspinatus, and their neighbors — they were cries for help. My right shoulder was smooshed under my pillow and head in protraction, internal rotation, and abduction. Earlier in our master class when I discovered the blind spot, I asked for more information. Becoming more embodied helped me to hear the message and change my sleeping position. I look forward to more discoveries!
Propeller arms, reminds me want to work on strengthening both sides of my brain. Thank you for this article!
This is a must do pose for everyone! I like to use it as a “take a break” pose when I am trapped in front of my computer for too long. It. really opens up and brings mobility back into the shoulders.
My boyfriend, a former competitive swimmer, suffers from a shoulder injury which can be quite painful and limiting from time to time. Swimming again has helped him. This is a great on-land technique I will share!
Great article – I am a side sleeper too. I love propeller arms! I always get an awesome stretch.
I have a shoulder injury that I am recovering from and this was a great stretch to help with all the tightness. Thank you Melinda!
I am a side sleeper too! And I had also experienced tight and sore shoulders. I roll shoulders with the balls and it temporarily fixed the problem, as I continue to sleep on my side, the shoulders ache reoccur from time to time. I will definitely include the shoulder flossing movement exercise to my daily routine to help and hopefully erase the pain.
It is so important to keep the shoulders strong and supple. These exercises help to bring back some life into the shoulder joints by keeping them well lubricated. This is especially important after sitting at a computer for long periods of time.
It is so important to keep the shoulders supple and strong. These exercises keep the joint mobile and well lubricated. It helps to bring back some life in the neck and shoulders after sitting at a computer for long periods of time.
great idea to use the band, i have some kind of an injury in my right shoulder and planning on practicing the shoulders flossing for a week and check i the progression.
Great instructional video, showing the correct technique and demonstrating the possible mistakes. I have used these techniques with my clients, and this video can be a great reference to them to continue the exercise at home.
this works a treat! wonderful warm up exercise!
I love this vid, I am a yoga teacher and I am often reminded how tight my shoulders are when doing certain poses. Shoulder flossing has become part of my warm up routine.
I have experienced similar discomfort in my shoulder because I’m a side sleeper. I greatly appreciate your tip for resetting the shoulder with propeller arms. I will try this next time. I also like the idea of flossing shoulders with a theraband vs. a strap.
Great suggestions. My shoulders are always tight and cranky. I have just started learning more about Yoga Tune Up and welcome the other suggestions for help. Thank you.
Some days I have to have wider arms overhead than other days so stretchy bands help the most with that for me, too.
I recently began sleeping on my side, I’m not sure why, I’ve always slept on my back. Since this started I’ve developed some shoulder pain. This post caught my attention right away. I’m glad I read it. I’m going to make the shoulder flossing and propeller arms part of my regular routine.
What a great idea to use a Theraband!
Getting to the root of pain or discomfort is so mportant- i really like the quote ‘ travel further into the dysfunction to be able to get out of it.’ Thx!
Shoulders get so much use each day. Interesting that going a little further and pushing against resistance can be beneficial
I have some current shoulder issues and can’t do full propeller arms right now, but the shoulder flossing with a strap is a perfect exercise to keep my shoulders mobile and happy.
Shoulder flossing is now one of my favorite shoulder exercises for mobility and warm-up in the mornings and before weightlifting. Shoulder flossing feels like a massage to my shoulders. 🙂
Shoulder flossing is great for strengthening your supraspinatus and once you have completed this stretching exercise your able to have better flexibility and range of movement when doing bent over rows with heavy weights and deadlifts . Thanks for sharing
Nice Statement about the shoulder flossing, good idea to use a elastic “Theraband”. I think, if someone have a problem with the shoulder we don’t think about the connenction between how the person sleep and how does it works with the shoulder or rotator cuff. Good to see and bring attention on this point.
As a side sleeper, I can relate to getting tension in the shoulders during sleep. Great to hear that Shoulder Flossing and Propellar arms are your go to’s. Externally rotating when flexing the shoulders increased range of motion, this is also a keeper. Thank you.
Really enjoyed your video and your clear and concise instruction. The weight has been lifted on my shoulders – literally!
Great demo. Thanks
I am a side sleeper too and I also wake up with soreness sometimes but I never thought (for some reason) that these could affect my posture… definately something to keep an eye on.
Melinda, love that you offered two variations using both a band and a strap. Using the band does make it more accessible to those students who have shoulder issues. I just introduced this variation last week.
J’adore le moulin à vent! De plus mes clients sont souvent surpris de la difficulté au début à inverser la circumduction d’une épaule par rapport à l’autre. Merci pour cette excellente démonstration.
I didn’t reallly understand how to acieve this exercise before I watched this video. Great teaching, great demo, just enough explanations. Looking forward to trying it tomorrow with more accuracy.