Shoulder Pain in Yoga? 🥺

Shoulder pain in Yoga is a real case of imbalance. And I am talking about the imbalance between length and tension. Optimum physical health is a balance between the length the muscle can go to and the force it can generate.

There are many people I have seen who complain of shoulder pain when in yoga. These people have lots of movement around the shoulder, which is a good thing for sure, but I feel that most yoga people, or serious yoga people have more movement than is actually needed. Using myself as an example, I am not sure how much more mobility is required around my shoulder joint – if any. Remember, the shoulder joint is actually a very vulnerable ball and socket joint. It requires more strength than flexibility. It mirror the hip joint. The hip joint is a very rigid and stable joint that needs more mobility. The shoulder has the opposite requirement. The shoulder need stability and strength more than flexibility.

Once that is understood the second problem props up. Yoga people often resort to more and more arm balances and chaturanga’s for what they call shoulder strength. The problem with this is that all these poses really do is “strengthen” or build endurance in the front part of the shoulder. You learn to resist and fight gravity by pushing into the ground which target the anterior, or front part of the shoulders and chest. The problems with this is the sheer number of pushing poses means that someone builds really good efficiency and muscle activation in this pushing action alone. But the shoulder needs stimulation in a way that yoga does not provide. If you push into the floor to resist gravity, the shoulders, chest, brain and nervous system also need the ability to PULL a resistance. Again, you simply don’t get this in yoga. Your shoulder becomes even more de-stabilised as the anterior side is much more dominant that the middle and the posterior side.

The pain you experience in chaturanga is a way of your brain telling you to stop that action and address why there is a problem. Yoga has always amazed me in that anytime there is a yoga injury, yogis always wonder what they can do in the yoga that will make them better. Which is madness. No other physical discipline has the same issue. If you injure yourself in CrossFit, or boxing or any other type of physical disciple, which yoga is by the way, they don’t say; “Oh, I wonder what exercise I can do to make the pain go away”. This level of idiocy is exclusive to yoga alone. A cross fitter will stop activity. Rest. And then do some movement or exercises outside of the CrossFit discipline to try and ensure the problem does not re-occur. In yoga we should pause. Perhaps stop. Rest. And then see what general exercises, band exercises, or gym exercises (all non yoga related exercises) we can do so we can go back to doing the thing we love.

SO to answer, in my opinion, based on my experience as a teacher, the best teacher in surrey btw 😂 (in case you forgot), if your shoulder hurts in chaturanga, stop chaturanga’s for a little while. DO some resistance work. Challenge the shoulder from multiple angles so it becomes more stable and more well-rounded. Then chaturanga’s (if done correctly), may no longer cause pain.

DO I think Chaturangas are the cause of Shoulder pain?

No. Chaturanga is not the problem. The problem is we are repeating this action over and over again when we perhaps don’t have the stability in the shoulder to do so. The problem is not the pose or exercises, it’s our inability to tolerate that particular stress. If you have a gym background and you have lifted weights in the past, and say your shoulder is well rounded, chaturanga won’t cause you any problems as it doesn’t for me. But if you have no history of challenging your shoulder with resistance, why would you expect your shoulder to have the capacity to tolerate the stress of chaturanga?

Will repetition of chaturanga make you more efficient at tolerating chaturanga? Yes and no. Yes it will but again, similar to the earlier questions, if your shoulder is not well rounded, meaning it does not have equal pull and push strength, then the weakness of shoulder will, at some point catch up with you.


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