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Relaxed Shoulders in 9 Positions

By Brigitte Longueville

brigitte longueville teaching restorative alignment yoga

More and more we are experiencing our lives in our minds, as if our body trails many miles behind. Our respiration is not able to connect the heart to the spinal column, where the nervous system is located. Lying on a BackMitra creates a passive restorative posture that helps us to bring back inner peace, to exhale, and to get rid of unnecessary contraction in our physical, mental and emotional body. But it also works therapeutically: the structure of the spinal column changes, joints get more space, pinched nerves are released and due to the pressure of the BackMitra the density of the vertebrae changes. Again and again a blissful feeling overwhelms us!

“Gravity and breathing are the open doors
to the present”

This series of exercises helps us to create relaxed and stable shoulders. Anatomically the structure of our shoulders is as follows: the collarbones, the shoulder joint and the shoulder blades. These three segments need to communicate with each other in all postures.

restorative alignment yoga poses1. Start from Utkatasana (the chair pose) with the arms forward. On an exhalation the arms are slowly stretched forward. Relax the joints of wrists, elbows and the shoulders, nothing feels hard or forced. While breathing, focus on the shoulder blades and feel a soft contraction on the base of the shoulder blades with each exhalation.


restorative alignment yoga class2. The second position is Utkatasana with both arms stretched all the way to the sides of the ears (as far as the shoulders permit). Guide this pose with your inhalation and exhalation. Feel a widening with every relaxed and deep inhalation at the bottom, middle and top of the rib cage. On every exhalation feel the breath on both sides of the spine.


restorative alignment yoga with Brigitte Longueville3. On every smooth inhalation and exhalation we move our arms in the opposite direction. One arm slowly moves up and the other down. With this exercise we stimulate the upward and downward movement in the shoulder blade.


therapeutic yoga poses4. Utkatasana with the hands to the elbows. Do not bring the arms too far upwards but make sure that the upper arms are placed in the center of the shoulder joint. Gently push the elbows into your hands, and pull your elbows with your hands. This pulling and pushing force is transmitted through the shoulder joint to the shoulder blade.


therapeutic yoga with Brigitte Longueville5. On an exhalation turn your hands and arms towards one side and your head towards the other. You will feel a soft stretch around the shoulder blade and by turning the head to the opposite side you will simultaneously feel a stretch on the side of the neck.


yoga therapy for the shoulders6. On an exhalation, put both arms above your head and feel the stretch from your hips towards your armpits.


yoga therapy for the back7. Bend both knees a little further, you will feel that your weight falls into the pelvis, bring the upper part of the body parallel to the floor. On an inhalation feel the widening around the thorax and when exhaling the lengthening from the sacrum to the base of the skull.


yoga therapy for the arms and neck8. With one relaxed movement swing your arms behind the back, interlace your fingers and move into a variation of the Uttanasana (Intense forward bending pose). The head and neck feel heavy, but the face is light and relaxed. Occasionally the knees can be bent and stretched.


What is restorative yoga?9. Uttanasana relaxes the whole back, forearms feel heavy, the head and neck feel heavy, and the eyes and face are relaxed. You will notice a pleasant stretch in your back.


Therapy oriented yoga teacher Brigitte Longueville

First published in: Yoga International Magazine - Summer 2017 edition

Photography: Sunny Gardeur

P.s. The little dog is called Diva.

"What I learned at the Solstice intensive
Driving my car, eating and even sleeping, I never noticed the natural tension in my shoulders while doing even some of the activities that are supposed to be some of the most relaxing. Now, after Brigitte Longueville’s intensive, I have become more conscious of these tension areas my body has created.
For me, yoga has helped me to understand my body, how it works and ways to make each and every muscle work better together to create one fluid being. However, because of the Back Mitra and concentrated muscle work, I have become more aware of how to help conditioning them to work better for other muscles and my body as a whole.
It was interesting to see that the years of tension in my shoulders have created a “compaction” in my chest not allowing the mobility that should be in those areas. Knowing there is too much strength in my lower back, which helps me to understand why some poses come more easily and others are harder because my lower back does not flex, or relax, to allow me to properly execute the asana how it was intended. But over the course of the days I also come to the understanding that it was ok to have these problems, as long as you work to help them.
Brigitte’s expertise in muscle therapy is also evident by her repetitive asana series. Her conditioning seems to train your muscles over time. Each day, after the first two cycles, the ability to repeat them seemed to be endless.
I think what I took away more from the intensive, however, was a “mantra” that Brigitte instilled in me without even knowing it. The phrase “this is work” is something I now repeat to myself at times to realize that sometimes it is work to help release what we need to find that perfect balance on and off the mat."
-- Amy L., Texas, USA