Desk Yoga: Shoulder Opening Yoga Poses

16 Jun

Take a look at how you are sitting right now…. Where are your shoulders? Chances are, they are somewhere up near your ears, or hunched forward, or both. The shoulder is one of the most flexible joints in our bodies but, in the technology-heavy world we live in, so often we limit the range of motion in our shoulders during the day as we work on computers, look at phones, slouch at desks etc and so our shoulders often lock up as a result.

The effects of bad posture are many and can be quite serious. Constantly hunching forward can cause jaw pain, headaches, shoulder and back pain. Remaining like this for most of the day means that your spine isn’t aligned properly, which can affect your rib cage, compressing your lungs and heart. Not only this but many people also experience gastrointestinal issues which aren’t entirely due to stress but can often be caused by our posture and shallow breathing which can lead to stress or anxiety being heightened.

So that is the bad news; what is the solution? Enter shoulder openers…. Shoulder-opening yoga poses can help alleviate the tension that comes from using technology all the time. The really good news is that even 10 minutes sat at your desk can counter all these negative effects.

There are many yoga stretches and moves that you may choose to do and I would suggest finding ones that you like. Having spent up to 14 hours a day on zoom calls and my laptop previously – not something I recommend!! - these are the ones that I find work best for me.

Do let me know how you find them or if you have any areas you’d specifically like me to focus on.

If you have 10 mins sitting at your desk or on a dining chair. Make sure your feet are both flat on the floor:

Seated Cat / Cow pose

This is a great way to stretch your muscles as well as helping to make your breathing smoother by stretching the chest and the lungs. It is also really good for relieving lower back pack and re-aligning the spine.

How to:

  • Make sure that you feel grounded, with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale and open your chest, rolling your shoulders backwards and bringing your breast bone forward as you look up towards the ceiling. Make sure you bring your tail bone upwards and arch your spine.
  • Exhale - round your shoulders, tuck your tail bone under and create a c-shape with your spine as you look down.
  • Inhale look up, exhale round the spine and repeat 4 more times.
  • Make sure you synchronise this with your breath so you continue to inhale as you open and exhale as you compress.

Neck Stretch

This is a great stretch to release the trapezius muscles at the base of your neck.

How to:

  • With your right hand at your side, bend your elbow—keeping it close to your waist—turn your palm up and then rotate your arm away from your center. Keep your arm in this position, and tilt your left ear over your left shoulder.
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder rolls

These are perfect for removing accumulated stress and tension in the shoulders and improving the circulation in those joints. They also warm up and stretch the muscles, tendons, and joints and help to reduce pain and stiffness in the shoulder area.

How to:

  • Sit up straight without your back touching the back of the chair. Place your feet hip-width apart on the floor keep your chin parallel to the floor.
  • Inhale raise hands to shoulder level (palms facing upwards)
  • Exhale bend elbows and place fingertips on shoulders
  • Inhale as you raise your shoulders
  • Exhale as you lower your shoulder
  • Rotate your arms forward so your elbows touch, upwards towards your ears and then back.
  • Do 4 full rotations clockwise and anti-clockwise.
  • Exhale and lower your arms and give them a shake

Reverse prayer

This yoga pose is the ultimate shoulder-opening stretch, and it's great at widening out where you've pulled yourself inward.

How to:

  • Roll your shoulders back a few times before you start this pose to make sure that your shoulders aren’t all the way up by your ears. Then, if you can, reach your hands behind your back and press your palms together in a prayer position.
  • If your hands don’t come all the way together, you can always just touch your knuckles together or cross your arms at your back.
  • Make sure you keep rolling your shoulders back to open out.
  • Hold for 5 breaths

Eagle Arms

Sometimes, the best way to unwind is a bind, but be careful of this is you have shoulder issues such as rotator cuff injuries. Eagle arms is a great way to release your shoulders from your ears, and it also helps make your joints more flexible and improves range of motion after being in a fixed position for a long period of time during the day.

How to:

  • Straighten both arms in front of you. Then, wrap your left arm underneath your right arm so the backs of your hands touch each other.
  • Lift your elbows up so they come into line with your shoulders, as you push your arms away but make sure you slide your shoulder blades down your back.
  • Breathe for 5 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side with your right arm under your left arm.

Cow Face Arms

Unless you are exceptionally bendy it’s best to grab a towel, or even a ruler (anything that you can pull on) for this exercise.

This pose is a really good one for opening up the shoulders and helping to re-align your spine.

How to:

  • Reach your right arm up so that it is parallel with your spine and point your hand in the direction of your shoulder with your fingers pointing down.
  • Wrap your left arm behind your back and stretch it towards the right arm. If your hands meet without a prop, clasp your right and left fingers together. Otherwise, hold the ruler or towel in each hand to shorten the distance between them.
  • Hold in this position for 5 breaths
  • Release and swap arms so that your left hand reaches down between your shoulder blades and your right reaches up to meet it.


I believe that practicing yoga will change your life. Whether you want to tone your muscles, ease stress, relieve an aching back or just start to sleep better then you will find something for you in sessions with me.