It’s very common to hear about people that find relief from back pain by practicing yoga asana. The relief they find gets them hooked on yoga. But unfortunately, it’s also common for the repetitive nature of their practice to contribute to the development of chronic shoulder pain.
As a yoga therapist, when I talk to my clients who have shoulder pain about their yoga practice, I often learn that they routinely practice a shoulder stretch commonly know as “Thread The Needle.”
Thread The Needle is performed from a table top position. The practitioner “threads” one arm under their chest and opposite arm, bringing the outside of the threaded shoulder to the floor, as the weight of the torso falls on the arm.
The torso is also twisted in this pose, which brings a often enjoyable stretch to muscles along the spine. Unfortunately, it also significantly stretches the rotator cuff muscles, which are on top of the shoulder blades and help in many movements of shoulder.
Why is this a problem? As those rotator muscles get stretched out, they have less ability to keep the shoulder blades “on the back” and as a result, the shoulder rolls forward and creates compression where the collar bone, arm bone and shoulder socket come together. That compression often creates pain.
Unfortunately, everyday movements in life stretch and wear out rotator cuff muscles as well. In fact, rotator cuff tears are all to common. But stretches like Thread The Needle only speed up that process. And if you do that pose everyday, it could be a main contributor to shoulder pain.
Interested in exploring this part of your practice to see if your mechanics might be hurting instead of helping? Wondering what the alternatives to the poses might be? Make a Yoga Therapy appointment today to find out!
Joe Simek is a Certified Yoga Therapist, 500-Hour Level Yoga Teacher, and Co-owner of Dragonfly Yoga Studio. Joe has been practicing yoga for more than a decade, using the wisdom of the teachings to lose weight, get sober, and abandon the corporate grind. In 2012, he formalized his yoga education, completing Dragonfly’s 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training. Joe went on to study Yoga Therapy and Peaceful Weight Loss Through Yoga with Brandt Passalacqua of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy (where he is now a Teaching Assistant) and Advanced Vinyasa Yoga with Rolf Gates. In 2016, Joe co-founded The Fiaria Project, a non-profit organization that aids foster children. He is also the frontman of Destroy It Up, an indie rock music project inspired by yoga philosophy. Joe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Arizona State University.