Wings of Change

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On Wednesday, I wrote about how the tension in your lats can impact more than just shoulder movement. A few months ago, I noticed that when I brought my arms up alongside my ears – in Tadasana (Mountain pose) or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) I didn’t have as much range of motion in my left shoulder as I did in my right and I wasn’t really sure what was causing this. Was it one of my rotator cuff muscles, possible my infraspinatus, or teres minor? Weakness? A combination? Truth be told it was probably a mix of everything.

I was able to get the big picture when I started rolling with my Yoga Tune Up® balls in that region. Not only did the trigger point of the infraspinatus – right behind the armpit – feel tender, but the pressure of the ball right at the inferior angle of the scapula and around the ribs, was almost untenable. Blind spot, I’ve got you – the latissimus dorsi!

In addition to rolling more frequently over the entire span of my lats, and the entire shoulder region when I have more time, to release tension, I now regularly give some TLC to my lats with the Yoga Tune Up® pose, Holy Cow at the Trough and Parighasana, or Gait pose, both brilliant stretches in which I stay a good minute.

I still don’t have the same range in both shoulders – there is notable improvement – but every time I do my little lat routine, the area feels lighter and expanded; I would go as far as to say that my tissues are breathing better with the feeling of more space in and around them.

Not only is it motivating to see results, such as less discomfort and increased range of motion, but it is also empowering to know that I can take care of myself and restore my health, with just a couple of balls, a few simple poses, and 10 minutes. That’s all it takes to give yourself the gift of movement!


Enjoyed this article? Read Self Massage for Upper Back and Neck Pain Relief

Emilie Mikulla

Having contracted a major case of wanderlust, Emilie has traveled the world, working as journalist, and now lives Dubai. After a second surgery on her spine, Emilie followed a lengthy Pilates rehabilitation program and, amazed by the results in her own body, became a comprehensively trained Pilates instructor in 2008. Emilie has taught in Thailand, South Africa, Dubai and in San Francisco. Emilie is an E-RYT and has completed her trainings with YogaWorks and Yoga Tree San Francisco, before earning her Yoga Tune Up® certification from Jill Miller. She has also spent hundreds of hours assisting her mentor Harvey Deutch PT at RedHawk Physical Therapy clinic in San Francisco, in teacher trainings, and on retreats at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. She has also recently participated in a week-long cadaver dissection workshop with Gil Hedley of Integral Anatomy. Emilie is the Lifestyle Editor for Women's Health & Fitness Middle East where she contributes a variety of articles and columns ranging from fitness and wellness, inspirational stories and nutrition. Blending dynamic movement with therapeutic releases, Emilie’s classes will empower you to practice the activities you love with awareness and joy.

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Primavera G

I had mentioned this stretch on a previous post but Jill’s video definitely helps clarify the stretch in a way words can’t. I love this stretch as well and encourage everyone work it into their routine. It is so fun to find neglected muscles and show them you love them too.

Janie Prince

I really liked it when you said it’s empowering to be able to take care of yourself and restore your health with a few balls and some simple poses! Since my first introduction to YTU and the therapy balls I was hooked! It really is empowering and relieving to take your own health and recovery into your own hands. Our bodies are the longest relationship we’ll ever have and it’s pretty cool when that relationship is happy and healthy one!


The impact of the latissimus dorsi is very important for the shoulders and the lower back too. Thank you for this exercice.

Alison Ahmoye Buchanan

Great reminder to employe the saying “get clear about what you’re unclear about.” Not knowing where the problem was led you on a YTU therapy ball scavenger hunt, and then you found your trouble spot. I am realizing (in my YTU level 1 training) that there are many blind spots for me – and many lie in the upper back. Thank you for inspiring a scavenger hunt through our own bodies!

Alexandra Dionne

This exercise was a very nice discovery because is very efficiant to improve the range of motion of the shoulder.

april N

Need to do this myself!


I too have asymmetries that have been lingering for years. One of the reasons I came to YTU is because I knew that I needed to take more responsibility for my own tissues because it wasn’t going to get fixed otherwise. It is so nice to be in a community that acknowledges the myriad of movement issues we all have and embraces the opportunity to make change. I am excited to see what new potential comes out of applying the principles I am learning at YTU teacher training.

Joy V

I love this exercise. As a tall person, slouching with mindless caused me regularly a neck pain. It’s always tight. I was using the massage to help but the next day it got tight again. I started my YTU training journey with Shoulder Immersion. It absolutely fixed my neck problem and now I want to help others.

Deepa Dravid

Wonderful Article!!! I have had similar experience, where my right shoulder range is somewhat restricted as compared to left. The ball work on the Lats and YTU poses are right on spot in identifying these imbalances and help correct them.thank you !!!!

Patti Breitbach Rashid

I too have an imbalance between my right and left shoulders. I carry a heavy bag full of binders, etc on my left side daily. The YT level 1 TT has helped me to see this imbalance in a new light and has also given me the tools to address it!

Samantha Martin

After just finishing the Yoga Tune Up class focused on the shoulders, I also noticed a lot of areas that were so tender to the touch that I hadn’t noticed before. I need to do the same thing and use the balls on a regular basis and watch how it changes my practice.

Eduardo Castro

The Yoga Tune Up® balls are a great took to learn how to listen to your body.
As you mention in your post, It is great that we can care of ourselves and restore our “health, with just a couple of balls, a few simple poses, and 10 minutes. That’s all it takes to give yourself the gift of movement!”

Kimberly Greeff

This is an imbalance I’ve noticed from strongly contracting my serratus anterior while extending the spine. My lattisimis became very tight with the new found awareness and I too began rolling and using this particular posture in my practice AND with my students in class. Low and behold – they had the same tightness! The apple doesn’t fall from the tree and apparently niether does the latissimus dorsi!


Thank you for sharing your mini lat routine! Quarter urdhva danurasana at the wall might be a nice addition; sometimes in helps to divide and conquer, especially when you’re experiencing a big discrepancy between the two sides of your body.

Mei Wong

Thank you for sharing. I am hooked to the Yoga pranic bath which I find helps increase my range of motion in my shoulders. It is an excellent movement that as a yogini I have had rotator cuff injury and this in conjunction with the therapy balls have been quite helpful.

Murielle Corwin

I enjoyed reading your self observation regarding the imbalance in the right and left shoulder. I also experience similar issues and have been integrating the shoulder stretch you posted in my practice. I have made very slow but continuous progress. I will now also integrate the ball rolling you suggested on your post, thank you.

Kerry Cruz

I’ve experienced this imbalance as well. Rolling on the Tune Up balls really made a difference in the release of my fascia, trigger points and muscles around my rotator cuff. No matter how much a pay my massage therapist, they will never get into my body the way these balls can. They’re magical balls 😉 Who doesn’t wanna roll around all day on balls?


Worked on my shoulders today in level one training ahhh….such sweet relief Had the opportunity to let my shoulders relax and the tension melt away. .


can’t wait to integrate this into my regular routine. Shoulders and external rotation are something I struggle with. Can’t wait to see what consistent ball rolling and this routine can do for the body!

Manju Goradia

Jill Miller is all about self care.


I discovered this week at Certification week that my Latissimus Dorsi are incredibly weak! I will definitely explore this more when I am able to! Thanks for the pointers on how to address this.


We covered the entire shoulder ball rolling therapy in Level 1 training today. When that ball sits on the scapula you know it. The digging into the four separate rotator cuff muscles reveals alot of tension in the tissues if it is there. I have a different range of motion on my right side versus my left side. Neither is “wide open”, but recognizing the imbalance is 1/2 way to working to a greater ROM.


This is a great combination of exercises and ball work for the shoulders and appreciate the Lattissimus dorsi insight, Holy Cow !


It is good to Look for the tention not only in a shoulder area but in more distal parts as well. Focuse on a Lat is an interesting point of wiew. From my experience to improve a range of motion in shoulders I would advice to concetrate on Pesto Major. The great exercise to work on that is Side Laying Torso Twist. I can realy feel the difference after few repetition of that. Go and try!

Alison Pignolet

You give a clear and simple recipe for self care: observe the problem, form a hypothesis, use the balls to test and refine your hypothesis and then take some action. I have a similar imbalance and am grateful for your headstart on the research. I think I’ll start trying your routine. Thanks!


What an inspiring example to keep on rolling!! My shoulder is giving me long term trouble- I cant blame it- its had alot of abuse and overuse!! I’m really trying to pick apart and listen to the rotator cuff muscles in daily activity to pin point triggers, and of course have a good roll out to get to the bottom of it all!! Here’s to self care!!

Emily Pantalone

I’m so excited to see you writing about this. I have chronic shoulder/upper back tension from years of hunching over and muscle weakness in my back. I “accidentally” found my upper lat trigger point after doing the rotator cuff muscle therapy ball sequence and feeling relief everywhere except this little area somewhere behind or around or inside my armpit. I rolled there on my side and it was crazy intense, but afterwards I felt more relaxed than I had in so long – maybe ever! Now I can feel the tension there even if I’m just doing a bridge with… Read more »


Your example makes me wonder, if in case of a shoulder issue my body would compansate the limited range of motion elswhere? I would assume so and in such case the action would be to release tension in the shoulder but also to find the tension spot in the area compensating (which my be anywhere else in the body). Am I getting it right?

Kimberlee Ott

I have also noticed my shoulders feel uneven overhead, mainly do to shoulder injuries. I use a variation of this stretch and really find that it helps to open the fascia around that area.

Erin Hoien

I have the same issue in my right shoulder. The trigger points in my infraspinatus takes my breath away. When I first started rolling with the balls around the entire medial border of the scapula, it was extremely painful and I couldn’t do it that long. But now, I’ve noticed an incredible reduction of inflammation and I feel I can stand up easier without hunching over. I haven’t really explored my lats yet, but I’m motivated now!

Emilie Goldstein Mikulla

Hi Camille, thanks so much for your question. In general I hold a lot of tension in my shoulder region which gets worse when I’m teaching too many hours and my form begins to suffer. I have been trying to correct this with the YTU® Therapy Balls, and I can feel such a different once I roll out this gnarly area – I’m talking more than the lat, but the Traps, Rhomboids as well as rotator cuff muscles, especially infraspinatus, which is so tender for me. I like the point you make regarding strengthening. In addition to the lat stretches… Read more »


Did you find you were holding yourself in a certain way creating the tension in your lats? I’m exploring tight and weak muscles and I’m curious to know if you’ve also added strength exercises to your routine? Or if the stretch and release was the only thing needed in your ROM and functionality of your shoulders?

martina stürm

Another important muscle that is often overlooked in shoulder problems is the subscapularis.
A great method to release it is by leaning against the wall to place a ball in the depression at the most lateral aspect of your spinous process and dig your thumb deep into your posterior aspect of your armpit, pinching th subcapularis between the ball and your thumb.

Nina Kukar

This is so inspiring as I too have noticed a loss of range of motion in both shoulders and have nonspecific pain in my upper back. Using the yoga tune up balls has helped me identify and release many trigger points in my back I would never have been able to pinpoint otherwise.