The levator scapulae is often bogged down and stuck to the muscles surrounding it – posterior scalene and trapezius in particular. Rolling out these areas will unstick adhered tissues from each other and return them to their natural ‘slide and glide’ relationship, relieving upper back tension. As Jill says in the video, “It’s going to feel a bit gnarly from time to time!” But the therapeutic relief that you feel afterwards indicates a healthy release of tissue to its natural position.

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Sarah Court

Sarah Court is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Trainer, and the creator of Quantum Leap. She teaches public workshops, anatomy for yoga teacher trainings, and trains Yoga Tune Up® teachers worldwide. She developed and teaches her Quantum Leap continuing education program to make sophisticated movement science easy for movement teachers to understand and apply to their teaching. Sarah received her doctorate in Physical Therapy from Mount St. Mary’s University. She brings significant clinical experience to her teaching, attracting clients and students with a desire to move intelligently, regain mobility, or manage chronic conditions. Sarah is an award-winning graduate of Princeton University, and edited the Yoga Tune Up® blog for 5 years. She has been featured on and The New York Times. Find her Yoga Tune Up® schedule here or go to her full website.

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Love this old-school video! I find this a great area and easy techniques to teach beginners.

Julie Mackey

This was the first part of the body I exposed to ball rolling when I took the first Yoga Tune Up class workshop in my area. I really could not believe the sensory overload my body felt when I first laid over the balls. Now with daily practice it is a part of the body that enjoys feeling embodied so that slide and glide is optimal and tension is reduced.

Marie-Michelle Darveau

Feel so good ! Espacelly around scapula


I love rolling out my upper back and then doing a re-check. The difference I feel before and after is noticeable and it provides me with great tension relief.



Le fait de laisser les bras bouger avec le moins d’effort possible augmente encore plus le relâchement des tissus et des muscles. Observez la différence d’effet en étant très présent dans votre corps par rapport au moment ou vous l’êtes un peu moins. Profitez de ces exercices très courts pour vraiment être présent a vous même

Wendy Rancourt

I not only hold mechanical tension in this area, but a boatload of emotional stuff. Particularly grief. I have to be careful when doing deep tissue release work anywhere in the traps, or along the spine at the longissimus. In a group of people I’ve just met, it can be downright embarrassing. I’d suggest that as instructors we would do well to keep this in mind when program planning. We, and our students are hearts and minds, not just tissues.


What a great video and demo. So informative. Yes, my upper back (trapezius) feels as if it is glued in place. Appreciate you noting the ‘slide and glide’ relationship, as it gives me a sensation to aim to create healing here.

Melanie Burns

After carrying heavy books back and forth from the dorm at Kripalu to our training room my right shoulder needs this sequence!! Thank you so much for posting. My Levator Scapula and the fascial connections up the base of my skull thank you.


I have done this exercise since learning it multiple times a week. Rolling these areas have saved me. I would have excruciating pain under my shoulder blade which would run down my arm. By rolling out my shoulder/back (especially 2nd position she speaks about) was a life changer! Thank you for coming up with this rollout sequence!

Lou Shapiro

Nice variation of what we did in class. Thank you for this example of modifications on a theme, especially addressing different specific muscles in the same area.

John Greenhow

This was one of the first YTU routines I tried, and it endeared me to YTU.
One of my favourite quotes of all time: “Surely there is a place on the upper ridge of your shoulders that is feeling tight.”
My supraspinatus, trapezius, and levator scap is like one angry mess of grainy cords. It feels like the fibers of my levator are covered in sand.
This is an every day sequence for me and I am so grateful for it!

Michelle Dalbec

Sarah, yum yum who doesn’t want and need to knead out tension in the shoulders and upper back. Thanks so much for this reminder of how many muscles are responsible for neck, shoulder, and upper back discomfort. Using the Tune Up Balls is now a important part of my self care. I often roll out the after a long day of computer use, knitting, or just hauling around my heavy shoulder bag!!

kim haegele

After doing this in your Anatomy Intensive last night, I felt more open and supple in my upper back, neck and jaw. I was reminded of the importance of using my Tune Up Balls regularly to keep the gnarlyness to a minimum. Doing windshield wiper legs w/a ball on the Rhomboids was a great way to highlight the interconnectedness of the tissues.


These spots are exactly where I hold my tension. The feeling of getting into those gnarly areas is such a relief for me that I’m almost brought to tears, where I’d been thinking I’d never be able to release this area ever again. Thanks so much for a wonderful approach to tension relief!

Bianca Albrecht

Once you started practicing with YTU balls you’ll never wanted to stop! First it feels very painful, but it will relieve every muscle tension.

Rachelle Tersigni

Just did this a few days ago and it was so great for releasing the tissues all around my neck injury. While not directly on the spots of where I’m triggered just being around that area massaging provides great relief. I feel this area is where I hold all my tension, and is common for a lot of people to do that same. When unconscious the tendency is to elevate the shoulders and scapulae and protract them forward resulting in tense muscles and trigger points developing. Ouch! Roll those puppies out!


After the first time I have applied this sequence my traps released and I have finally have gotten rid of the nasty trigger points from between my shoulder blades. I can not wait to teach it to my clients!


I find this almost unbearably painful, and I had thought this was because I am new to the Yoga-Tune Up balls but now I am thinking it is more due to whatever resistance I’ve built up there due to issues that need that attention! Working through the hips was so much more manageable so I think it is just in this area in particular that I need to ease into the use of the balls and work towards releasing whatever I’ve got going on there (chronic issues with the upper back/shoulders/neck). I’m taking this pain as a sign to take… Read more »

Lisa Cassidy

This is one of my favorite YTU Therapy Ball segments. After a C spine injury a couple of years ago, I have a lot of tension in my upper back and shoulders due to compensation and guarding. This has created a lot of muscle imbalances and the Therapy balls are a great release for those areas that I simply cannot access on my own otherwise.


Hi Bobbi!

Addressing your scapula congruency is a two part process – rolling the balls to release tense tissue and adhesions is the first part (and to answer your question, you can do this daily), and the second part is strengthening the muscles that hold your scapula to your back and prevent winging. This is done mostly by our friend serratus anterior, which we found in the Megaplank with Active Serratus (protracting and depressing the serratus in a forearm plank pose). There is a recent post by Najla Said which addresses the serratus and I recommend you check it out!

Bobbi McKissick

I have experienced this work to release upper body tension in the recent anatomy workshop last month (I had with you, Sarah) and found it an amazing tool to care for my body especially if I don’t have a body worker or another persons hands available. I have recently discovered in workshop that my scapulas are not congruent! Oh no, lol. I believe this is due to the luggage bag I like to call my purse. I have recently changed my purse into a smaller and significantly lighter one. I switch off which shoulder I carry it on and have… Read more »


I too have experienced first hand how rolling out on these muscles with the YTU balls has released the burden of tension in my shoulders. Since my shoulders feel more relaxed my posture has also improved. bonus!

Renee holden

Since discovering the YTU therapy bals, I don’t go anywhere without them, they have been a huge benefit to myself and my athletic clients, those who work behind a computer all day have learned to love the benefits of these too! Many thanks for posting the video for federal!


Rolling of the upper back brought so much more mobility to my everyday activities. I naturally internally rotate my shoulders and elevate my shoulders, due to stress. This causes major tension and stickiness in the upper back. Once I started using the balls I was able to relieve these areas on a daily basis, thus bringing me better posture and more comfort.

Lori Wieder

Relief from this was amazing and also helped me tune in to the fact that I was hiking up/holding my right shoulder up a bit higher than my left. This work helped me find more balance as well as relief!

Heather Lindsay

I can’t imagine going even two days without rolling the upper back, been doing this for four+ years now . This helped tremendously in a accident I was in yesterday where I was hit from behind. Love my balls!


My upper back muscles thank you for a great demonstration on how to relieve that upper back nagging tension.
I have already tried this on my husband and daughter now they are hooked too! Really Great!

Nick Muscara

I just tried this for the first time this weekend and I highly recommend it. It did wonders for my upper back and I plan on doing it a couple times a week going forward. Love it!


My client had sever pain in his neck. Afer a bit of evaluating we determined it was his lev. scap. We did some of ball work on it and miraculously his pain was almost entirely gone. That together with making sure he was carrying his head over his heart has helped him prevent this from reoccurring.

Lulu Gong

I love these therapy balls :). I just learned how to use these balls on my body( especially my back which I need most ) during my yoga tune up class. These balls have magical power on my back. When I first used them on my back, I felt like it torturing me. Afterwards, my back felt much lighter and ” happier”. Thanks to our wonderful yoga tune up teacher Maura Barclay:)


I just finished the YTU weekend and my biggest discovery was how much the balls can relieve my chronic shoulder pain by massaging my muscles and rolling my tissues. After watching the video on the ‘fuzz’ by Gill Hedley I realized how much ‘fuzz’ we can buildup daily if we don’t move these areas and we rarely do since some of these muscles are not easy to access! The buildup of these collagen fibers can only be relived and broken down with the use of the balls, massages or physical therapy. Why not do it with the balls at home?… Read more »

Lauren F

This was the first video I had the opportunity to watch since visiting the Yoga Tune Up blog. I really appreciate the verbal detail and visualizations from Jill as she instructs through the video. This is an area that is particularly tight in my body and the techniques to stretch the muscles using the balls have helped already!

Rachel S

Just tried this one when I got my YTU balls for the first time yesterday. It’s going to be something I do all the time as I felt immediate relief from the tension I’ve been having in my neck/upper back. Thank you!


A general question: as I research and learn more about anatomy and how the body should optimally move, and the various fixes for movement and mobility problems, I’m still unclear on how these layers of body tissues can become adhered to each other. It’s probably a simple explanation. Can it get as bad as scar tissue from an injury? Or more like the layers are stuck together like layers of paper with double-sided tape?

Thank you for ALL these demonstrations. Upper back & neck pain relief never felt so good!

Matthew Coe

Great video for an important practice, thanks! As suggested, the Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls are one of the best ways I’ve experienced to free bound fascia and muscles, especially when you don’t have a body worker or loved one to get into those impossible to reach areas. Self massage of the shoulders and upper spine should be a daily practice in our modern lives of heavy computer use. This series with the YTU Therapy balls can bring relief with only an investment of a few dollars and some personal time, do it!