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Ask Yoga Today

Ask Yoga Today – Yoga and Rotator Cuff Injuries

Posted: January 24th, 2012 by Neesha Zollinger 8 Comments

Hi Neesha,
I wonder if you have any sessions with poses for people with rotator cuff injuries? I’m not sure if I should be doing down-dog pose and/or what other kind of poses I should avoid vs those that will help me strengthen my shoulder as I recover from injury.  Thanks! – Elizabeth

Hi Elizabeth,

When it comes to injuries, getting good alignment, movement and circulation is the best thing that one can do.  Thanks for writing, though we are never happy to hear of injuries.  This is a razor-edge, if you are not in good alignment with balanced action, you can cause MORE DAMAGE!  Because of this reality, and the importance of your body and healing, I would recommend that you invest in some private classes with a teacher well versed in therapeutics and alignment.

Once you get good alignment and strength in the shoulder in non-weight bearing poses, then you move toward more weight bearing poses with good alignment.  If it hurts, that is your bodies signal that something is not in order.

Even though I am quite aware in my body, as I am sure you are, I would do the same thing that I’m advising you to do.  We all need eyes to look at us, to reflect what we can’t see ourselves so that we can optimize the situation.  Find someone you trust to help illuminate the dark spots!

Here is one great asana that, if done in this specific way, that strengthens the rotator cuff:

Jathara Parivartasana:

Lie on your back with arms out to your side and elbows bent (cactus arms).

Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.

Breath into all the space in your torso.  Investigate with your breath, seeing if you can find more space between your hips and armpits (side bodies) and even between each individual rib.  With your curios breath, also sense how the movement of your breath and fill up your back waist and create expansion of your back against the floor.  Notice how much more fullness is inside, we call this “inner body bright”.  Participate more actively with this feeling of space in side by shrugging your shoulders up towards your ears so that your side bodies get even longer.

Now, actively press your upper arm bones down into the ground.  You will feel your chest open toward the sky and your shoulder blades come more flat onto your back ribs and the floor.

Maintaining this action of keeping your arms glued to the floor, as you exhale, lift your knees and feet off of the floor.   Hug your legs and outer hips to the midline as you breath your legs to your right.  Enjoy some breaths here, all the while firmly pressing your left shoulder and upper arm bone to the ground.  Your shoulder and arm cannot lift off of the ground, your rotator cuff depends on you to be vigilant here!

After you enjoy a few breaths with knees to the right, you can bring them to the left.  Reverse a few more times noticing that it is a great twist as well as a shoulder strengthener.

Enjoy, and blessings for these words to lead you in the direction of residing in your bliss,

Neesha