I noticed Roger in my class right away. He was having a lot of trouble doing downward facing dog, unable to fully extend his elbows and bring his arms overhead.After class he came to me and asked, “Jeff, is there anything I can do to create more flexibility in my shoulders?”

I could tell this wasn’t just about yoga, but a quality of life issue – there was emotion behind it. He was feeling insecure about not being able to do what he thought a person of his age and health should be able to do. He felt pain when he moved certain ways, when he slept the wrong way, and when he lifted weights.He had been to doctors who had told him the problem was a frayed rotator cuff, which was followed by some physical therapy – but the pain never really ceased and he was looking for something else.

I took a quick look over Roger and had him go through some range of motion exercises.He said he felt a huge relief from doing Shoulder Circles which you can find in the video below. Try this rotator cuff pain relief exercise and see if this helps you to loosen the family of muscles that surround and stabilize the shoulder joint.

For more on healing shoulder pain or rotator cuff injuries, including the sequence that leads up to Shoulder Circles, watch the full Yoga Tune Up Shoulder Quickfix Video here. In addition, I’ve just posted a great article that gives even more information about Rotator Cuff injuries and shoulder pain.

Happy Healing!

Discover our shoulder exercises and shoulder pain solutions.

Watch our free 5 minute shoulder pain relief video.

Read our post – Get off the cuff.

Jeffrey Lang

Jeffrey Lang is a certified Yoga Tune Up® instructor in Northern California. Jeff likes to fill the gap of classical Yoga with modern understanding of anatomical texts, neurology, biology, physiology and psychology in order to help explain and refine our understanding of enlightened states of being and better health. For more about me or to view my Yoga Tune Up® class schedule go here.

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Erika Mills

This post reminds me that exercise must be integrated into our lives. Waiting for the perfect time to alleviate the tension we carry is not the solution. These shoulder rolls can be done almost anywhere:) Thank you!

Shanice Chambliss

Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you are a great author. I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back from now on. I want to encourage you continue your great writing, have a nice weekend!

Jane Thibodeau

Thanks for sharing this article. It’s a great reminder of how a simple pose like shoulder circles can be so effective for chronic pain/discomfort when done well.

Scott McKee

As a former weight lifter and sometime sufferer of a shoulder impingements brought on by muscle imbalance, poor posture and too much time at the computer, I can certainly relate to this situation. I welcome any and all potential solutions and look forward to reading the other related posts. Thanks!

AnnMerle Feldman

All of these shoulder rolls are so important because we are typically stagnant and stuck and we lack circulation. I always work with students first to breathe and feel like they are nourishing this area. The breath adds “WD-40” to the movement and makes it more effective.


Very simple and easy shoulder rolls to sneak in anywhere you go. To help maintain mobility, posture, functional movement.


thanks for this post – inhibition, pain, tightening – all of these physical and mental expressions are so intertwined. I appreciate that you chose a simple, non-invasive pose to help your client get back into his body.

Frances Rothenberg

This movement is so simple and so powerful at increasing the range of movement in the shoulder. The true beauty of this movement is that it can be done anywhere and anytime.

Jona Joyce

Hey Jeff! I am a practitioner of Jiu Jitsu and before I met Jill and was exposed to YTU, I was in the same boat as Roger from your blog. Since I have gained more ROM in my shoulders from ball rolling and YTU exercises, I can look back now and realize just how limited I was before. And honestly, it did feel a little frustrating and humbling when I would run into that block when trying to do different movements. This is such valuable info and I’m glad we have it for ourselves and our clients!

Why Anatomy Matters | Yoga Tune Up

[…] that said, there will always be the student that ignores your advice and does handstand on their rotator cuff injury. If you have clearly explained why that would be a bad idea, and they do it anyway, I’m of the […]

Emily Sonnenberg

This reminds me of Gil Hedley’s “Fuzz Speech” When you hurt your shoulder you don’t want to move it. Then you sleep on it. Then you don’t move it again the next day. Let that happen for days, weeks, months years and you have a furry friend in your rotator cuff and the muscles are no longer able to slide over each other easily. Our culture uses such limited range of movement! We need those dental tools on the plaque of our shoulders too!

Ann Taylor Lashbrook

It is funny how simple shoulder circles seem and yet we forget about them, or I should say “I forget about them.” In addition to teaching yoga, I also teach various conditioning classes and have noticed in the last few years we have brought back the dynamic warm up for the lower body but notice that many people, myself included, could benefit from adding shoulder circles back into the warm up. I am looking forward to my class tomorrow morning as I will add shoulder circumduction back into my mix in addition to the other directions of movements that I… Read more »

Gloria Tan

Thanks for both articles Jeff and I’d just like to say that it’s great that you are so compassionate and caring to your students! (lucky Roger). I won’t mention where I got my 200 hr from here but the teachers there told us to tell our students “I’m not a doctor. Please consult with a doctor.” My mother has had shoulder issues for a couple years now. Last year the doctor said she had frozen shoulder. It was hard for her to put on her own shirts. I recently started giving her some yoga exercises, including this simple shoulder roll… Read more »


This reminds me of how vatious emotions can be stored and expressed in various areas of the body. Does freeing up Roger’s shoulder joint also create a laxity in his insecurity? It is interesting how a simple movement such as a shoulder roll can help allieviate discomfort in the rotatot cuff. The circumduction at the joint bring about lubrication to the joint capsule which will aide in the smooth movement of muscles around the shoulder. Bringing more circulation to the muscles brings more nurishment that might be needed for repair or use.


Rotator cuff injuries come way too easily ironladies and men (triathletes) spending way too much time in the water and in an aero position on the bike. Constantly internally rotated for hour and hours, day by day. It does take a toll on the shoulder joints. There are so many wonderful YTU poses to help open the shoulders (pin the arm on the yogi, open sesame, shoulder flossing, etc).


Yes, shoulder tension is something I am very familiar with unfortunately. I think many of us can relate to long hours sitting in front of a computer and the havoc it wreaks on our shoulders. Thank you Jill for reminding me of the simple power shoulder roll exercises have in increasing circulation and helping to release tension. I am going to be doing these on a regular basis from now on, thanks again.


This exercise feels sooo yummy! My husband had surgery on his rotator cuff 20 years ago, and this will be a great practice for him (and me)! Easy to do anywhere! thanks!


I’ve had a shoulder injury for a few years now do to a slip and fall issue. I didn’t receive any type of treatment until 8 months had passed. Needless to say a lot of compensation occurred during that time. I’m slowly undoing all that I had done. Realizing the way I slept had a tremendous effect on my shoulders. It’s incredible how it all hooks together. “Simple” fixes instead of jumping in to surgery.

Diane Wrobleski

As yoga students and teachers we should not underestimate the importance of shoulder rolls to relax tight chest and shoulder muscles.This video was a great reminder,particularly when I sit at he computer as I’m doing now.


Good suggestion – this one works along with the balls. Even tried the relax sign.

Christina Powers

I like the idea of continuing to build on the shoulder poses and giving people the option to stay with what they are comfortable or add more complicated movements. Building from shoulder circles to epaulet circles to more complex movements
Which include not only flexion, extension, circumduction but getting into end of range motions of internal and external rotations in moves such as gomukhasana or holy cow at the trough.


ah, why do i always discount the simple? these shoulder rotations always feel great, i am going to incorporate them during my daily routine like waiting at cash register, pumping gas etc thanks for reminding me (and reminding me to be a good example for clients!)

Peggy Sue Honeyman-Scott

Another simple yet oh so effective exercise for the tight shoulders we all seem to have.

Alissa Aboud

Something so simply and yet effective! Another great way to live better in your body! Thanks for the reminder!


Simple shoulder circles are a treat! I like them before breakfast and in class. Early in the class, they give me a good indicator of the state of peoples shoulders and a pleasant way to warmup for deeper shoulder work. Epaulet Circles seem to just follow on withe ease. If I introduce a couple of easy shoulder movements, then when we come to something more challenging, anyone who wants can go back to an earlier option and keep working at their own level.


After lengthy bike rides I do garudasana with my arms only and lift the up and down slightly from shoulder height and feel a great sense of relief and dare I say bliss. I also look forward to some self massage with my Yoga Tune Up therapy balls. They have become my new best friend. My BFF!!!!

Terry Ford

Shoulder rolls add some that contract relax methodogy, that can almost blend into a form of self massage. I love to do this with my fitness classes during the cool down phase, and get them to really excentuate the motion (shoulders to ears, press back and lower pulling the shoulder blades down). At times you can see the tension leave and a little “ahhhh” thing happen. There is so much overstretching of the back muscular with our technological advances (sitting), that clients need to feel the back contractions and become knowlegable with what back strengthening can do for them. Enjoyed… Read more »


I started using shoulder rolls at work and I was able to feel the difference immediately. Just focusing on that part of my body while doing the rolls and then being aware of the improvement in my shoulders after the exercise has made me be more conscious of my posture at the computer. I try to do some type of shoulder exercise at my desk every 40 minutes or so. (Setting a timer on you computer is a great way to remember!)

Dagmar Khan

I have very succesfully helped one of my private student using the signature Yoga Tune Up poses for shoulders to heal her rotator cuff injury that was not going away no matter what she did.It is incredible to see that allowing our joints move through their full range of motion is so incredible powerful and healing.


Rotator cuff issues seem to permeate our active adults as many over do it in sports and other activities- only to hear from doctors there is no relief except surgery.Shoulder circles and other progressively intense movements in the yoga tuneup shoulder series are sure to prove a sucessful prescription . Try them they work!

Teresa Heit-Murray

My grandmother has injured her rotator cuff many times. She often gets a cortisone shot for the pain. I will be seeing her this Thanksgiving. I am excited to show her this exercise as an alternative.


Seems anyone and everyone could probably benefit from doing more shoulder rolling these days, we’re all on the computer too much! Thank you.


This feels so good! As someone who has trouble with their shoulders, I love to learn a new way to care for them.


I had my right shoulder scoped a few years ago. I have to continue to stretch these muscles and keep them lubricated in order that they don’t tense up again…always a great reminder!


I never had a rotator cuff problem, but this is interesting.


Could this also help with frozen shoulder?

Jeff Lang

Also rest, ice, and hot epsom salt baths help me to recover from my strains….gently and gradually is a good mantra 😉


I have recently strained my shoulder and it’s not getting much better. I like the idea of increasing the circulation in my shoulders before my practice. I am definitely going to put this one to use!

Jeff Lang

Another great way to strengthen those rotator cuff muscles is Garudasana!!

Thanks Alexandra


I had an impinged rotator cuff over a year ago and it was caused my improper alignment in my yoga practice and ignoring the pain in my shoulder. After doing physical therapy for a few months my shoulder felt great but the muscles surrounding the shoulder blade were sensitive, tight, and painful. This shoulder circle sequence is something I would do before every yoga practice and continue do do almost every day. I still feel some discomfort in the upper back muscles but these rotations help get the blood moving in that area.


I have arthritis in my shoulder and I get really stiff. This exercise helped increase the circulation in my shoulder muscles to relieve the tension and stiffness in the shoulder joint. I also felt more space in my shoulder after doing this exercise. Thank you


Rotator cuff injuries are so tricky. In massage school we talk about them a lot and I wonder if active, personal participation in the healing would help bring out faster and more complete healing. YTU offers great opportunities for people to be invested and empowered in their own healing processes.


A shoulder injury is what drew me to Yoga Tune-up in the first. Still recovering. Re: working in front of computers. I now try standing sometimes with a standing laptop stand. Not that easy to find a good one, but you can do just as well by changing and being creative about your positions. I’ve often fantasized about being able to tape my laptop to the ceiling so I can work while doing horizontal poses…


Thanks for sharing this easy technique. Doing these shoulder rolls can help us with the contraction of the infraspinatus and the long head of the triceps. I recently learned that simultaneous contraction of both of these muscles creates space between the acromion and the greater tuberosity. That created space helps in prevention of the impingement of the bursa and, in turn, will help prevent the pain assoiciated with this type of impingement.


I have a AC shoulder separation so it’s important to warm up my shoulders properly before I exercise. The video shows a simple way to warm you your shoulders increase CIRCULATION 🙂 and prevent further injury.


I tore my cuff almost 20 years ago and am still working on it. This looks to be simple, quick and effective; thanks.

Susan Cooper

I like this suggestion of increasing the circulation in your shoulder muscles to relieve pain and stiffness. I often don’t focus on my shoulders enough, and this is a quick, easy way to help. Thanks, Jill!


This might be a good start to heall injured rotator cuff muscles. I wish this were all that’s necessary.


Many times we find ourselves hunched over during the day typing on the keyboard or paperwork at the desk. The protracted position of the shoulders would definitely get some relief by engaging the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. I know I find myself doing a few shoulder circles during the day.

Yoga Tune Up Blog » Did I Mention Shoulder Tension?

[…] cuff injuries, bursitis, tendonitis, and arthritis from developing. For a Quick-Fix, try this shoulder rolling move from the blog I posted earlier this week. You can see more shoulder exercises in the Yoga Tune Up® […]