Using a Yoga Belt to Open Your Shoulders

A tight shoulder is a common complaint of many yoga students. In today's high-tech world, many people work long hours at a desk and later find themselves slumped on the couch over their smartphone at night. Over time this not only causes chronic pain in the upper back and shoulders but can also cause emotional depression or feelings of lethargy or even low self-confidence. The reason for this emotional reaction is because this area of the body is directly related to our heart region, which governs many emotions.

It is important that yoga teachers know how to address this issue effectively and compassionately for their students through modifications and use of props, like yoga belts and even yoga blocks. There may be instances were students are unable to reach their hands together in binding postures, so using a yoga belt will be essential to get their shoulders to open up. Learn more when you purchase Instructing Hatha Yoga: A Guide for Teachers and Students.

Gomukhasana / Cow Face Pose

While Gomukhasana is both a shoulder and hip opening posture, today we are going to focus on the upper part of this posture that opens the shoulders. Make sure you have your yoga belt handy!

Before you begin, make sure your shoulders are warmed up appropriately. You can practice a few sun salutations to warm up the shoulder girdle. Then, to open the shoulder rotation muscles, grab your yoga belt and hold it wider than the shoulders with the arms straight. On an inhale, reach your arms up and then exhale them all the way back behind you. If there is any tightness, take the hands wider.

Cow Face Pose with Yoga Strap
  • To begin, sit in a comfortable position with the legs crossed (on a yoga bolster if needed) or with the right leg crossed over the left as in traditional Gomukhasana if that is already in your practice.
  • Inhale to reach your right arm up to the sky. Take hold of the elbow with your left hand and stretch the triceps muscle for 5 breaths here. Release.
  • Now take your left arm and rotate it behind your back so the hand points upward. Try to move the hand as far to the right side as you can before reaching it upward. Hold for 5 breaths here.
  • Let's try the posture with the belt now. Hold onto the strap and reach your right arm up. Bring the hand down toward the shoulders. Then, reach the left arm back and reach the hand upward. If the hands do not meet, use the belt to hold onto. Hold here for 5 breaths.
  • To increase the stretch, fold forward while onto the belt and hold for 5 breaths.
  • On your next inhalation, sit up and release the strap as you exhale.

Learn about this pose and more in Instructing Hatha Yoga: A Guide for Teachers and Students, available for purchase on our website now.