Yoga is so beneficial, especially when it comes to still being able to move your body if you are working through an injury. With shoulder injuries, they can be a tricky foe to battle. Running, lifting, throwing — these activities can put your shoulder at risk. Yoga poses can also pose a challenge when it comes to injury prevention. Whether you're just beginning and trying out new postures or an experienced practitioner who's encountered a few injuries, you might find that your shoulder doesn't always feel up for some of the more vigorous asanas. This is where practicing in different ways can come in handy. From alternate poses and modifications to self-practice reminders and body awareness practices, here are six helpful tips for practicing yoga with a shoulder injury.
Avoid putting weight on your shoulders.
If you're practicing with a shoulder injury, the last thing you want to do is put the extra stress of lifting weights on your shoulder. Shoulder injuries are tricky to manage and can be intensified by adding additional weight training into your routine. Build up to more rigorous exercises gradually when you're confident you can handle them. Instead, focus on using props to help you reach your practice goals while avoiding the risk of injury. Use a yoga block to prop up your feet when doing inversions, such as headstands, or prop your hands on the wall to support you when doing arm balances. Invest in a yoga strap to help you with poses like headstands and hand balances, which place extra stress on the shoulders. A yoga strap can help you avoid straining your shoulders, even when practicing in more challenging poses.
Reduce time spent practicing yoga as you recover
If you're recovering from a shoulder injury, you don't need to stay on the mat for hours. You might find your shoulder feeling a little stiff or inflamed after more extended practice, and this can slow you down as well as make your shoulders feel sore. If you need to take breaks, so be it. And be sure to hydrate and eat well while you're practicing. A healthy diet with plenty of water can keep your muscles hydrated and reduce pain and inflammation. When your body is adequately hydrated, it can accelerate healing, reducing the length of time it takes for you to recover from an injury. If your practice is too slow or you are not feeling it, consider cutting back or taking a break. Try to keep yoga sessions to five to 10 minutes and make them regular, even if you're not feeling like it. If your shoulder starts to feel better, you may be able to speed up your practice and increase your enjoyment, too.
Modify poses to avoid extra strain on your shoulder
If you're in a pose that involves a lot of arm movement, you may want to modify it. For instance, if you're in a shoulder stand or shoulder adduction pose, you can try resting your arm on a block. You can also try doing the pose with your arm entirely out to the side and resting on a folded blanket or pillow. This will avoid the movement of your arm and extra strain on your shoulder joint. If you're in a shoulder elevation pose, avoid going too high and risking an injury. Similarly, asanas that involve shoulder abduction, like plank pose, keep your shoulder down and avoid going too high.
Use support tools to help protect your shoulder.
You can use a block to protect your shoulder joint in a shoulder-openers pose like a shoulder bridge. When practicing in a shoulder-openers pose like a shoulder bridge, you can use a block to help protect your shoulder joint. Similarly, when you're in shoulder-openers like shoulder plank, you can use a strap around your forehead to keep your face and head off the ground and away from your shoulder. If you're in a pose with a lot of shoulder elevation, you can use a strap or a rolled-up blanket to keep your shoulder from going up too high. Similarly, in a pose with a lot of shoulder abduction, like plank pose, keeping your shoulder down can help protect it from going too high. Other support tools can include using the deltoid kt tape technique to help you maintain proper position and posture during yoga.
Take Breaks And Rest
If you're recovering from a shoulder injury, you need to be careful not to overdo it. Injuries can take time to heal, and you should give your body enough time to heal. Overdoing it can create problems down the road, so don't push yourself. While it's essential to protect your shoulder while practicing, you should also take breaks. Resting and doing less intense exercises, like gentle shoulder mobility and strengthening, can help your shoulder recover from injury. Rest is crucial if you're doing an intense asana like a downward-facing dog, where your shoulder is almost fully extended. When you're in poses like these for long periods, rest your shoulders between those positions. Resting your shoulder in between poses can help your shoulder recover from injury and improve your shoulder health over time by strengthening the muscles that stabilize your joint.
Maintain Body Awareness And Technique
While taking those extra heavy weights off your shoulders and pushing yourself can be tempting, you must maintain body awareness and technique to keep your joints safe. When practicing with a shoulder injury, it's crucial to maintain awareness of your body, even if you feel fine. You should always make sure to breathe deeply and keep your body relaxed when you're practicing. Stop immediately if you feel your shoulder starting to get tight while you're practicing. You should also always be mindful of your breathing while you're practicing. This is especially important if you're practicing in poses that put a strain on your shoulder.
Rather than avoiding certain yoga poses or giving up on your practice altogether when you're recovering from a shoulder injury, you can practice with a modified practice. Instead of practicing the full range of poses, focus on the poses that don't put extra strain on your shoulder and do them more gently. Beyond this, you can also modify your postures and practice with a gentler breath to protect your shoulder. These tips can help you practice yoga with a shoulder injury and protect your shoulder while you do it.