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Ask Yoga Today

Ask Yoga Today – Yoga Therapy for a Frozen Shoulder

Posted: July 3rd, 2012 by Neesha Zollinger 4 Comments

Dear Neesha,

I have a frozen shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis) and want to know some good yoga poses that will help to gently stretch my shoulder. Child’s pose is painful, triangle and any poses that require my arm to go straight up in the air don’t necessarily hurt, but I am unable to even get my arm close to straight up. I have been avoiding yoga, but now I wonder if renewing my practice will advance my healing along with the physical therapy I am doing. Any advice would be helpful. Thank you, Kim

Hi Kim,

Thank you for writing about your concern with your frozen shoulder.  Stay away from typical yoga and think more of yoga alignment therapy.  The alignment (organizing your body parts mindfully in relation with one another) is the same in regular yoga asana, but we will step way back in order to increase healing and function of your joint.

It is important to work with impeccable alignment in your case.  Range of motion will increase over time if you engage properly.

I am going to give you a set of instructions that I would like you to try in the given set of very simple postures.  Practice the step-by step set of instructions in each position.  This is important in order to get the most ideal placement of your arm bone in shoulder socket.  When the muscles are able to open and strengthen in these positions, you can slowly add more weight bearing.  Do this with guidance please.

Step 1:  expand inside your abdominal and thoracic cavities.  Imagine and  breathe liquid light filling your torso front, back and both sides.  With each breath, feel how your back waist expands to the back body, your ribs elevate and your arm bones elevate toward your ears.  This is a crucial first step!  You will need to breathe so much space into your side ribs and side bodies that your collarbones are square across.  Look in the mirror as you practice this.  Allow the movement to come from inside and your breath.  Try not to grab your upper shoulders (trapezius and levator scapulae) to get this outer body form and inner body fullness

Step 2:  draw your arms from your fingers into the shoulder sockets.  I call this putting on your evening gloves.  Feel how when you do this, the head of your arm bone (head of humerous) moves into a different position in your shoulder socket (glenohumeral joint).

These 2 steps are probably enough for now.  Use them in the following positions:

standing with arms at side
standing with arms in front of you like a sleepwalker
keeping the 2 steps gently move your arms TOWARD a position with arms over head, but do not force.  Keeping side bodies long and arm bone plugged in to glenohumeral  joint is your primary focus
You can do exercise 3 one arm at a time
keeping the 2 steps from above, try moving your arms into the side plane of your body.  (like wings) Again, do not force range of motion, just test your ability to keep the organization of your bones and notice which muscles are working to keep that
(This will likely be the hardest and potentially contraindicated for now depending on your range of motion):  Using your hands on a strap, GENTLY move your arms to the back plane of your body keeping steps 1 and 2.  Look in the mirror, and if the head of your arm bone comes forward and/or your side bodies shorten, then it is not doing any good.

As you are able to do these exercises with good alignment (keeping steps 1 and 2 from above), then you can add some weight bearing and more exercises.

Please stay in touch and let me know and I can guide you through the next round when the time comes.  Leave your comments here so that the conversation and healing can evolve and best of luck!

Here is a youtube video on the same principles that will help with the visual effects of what I am talking about.  It even includes a few more exercises with the same steps. The terminology that I use is different sometimes, but the idea is the same.

Sweet healing!