Here’s How to Practice Yoga Safely and Help Shoulder Tendonitis Symptoms
It is the excessive and repetitive movements we expose our body to daily that is the most common cause of tendonitis. The tendons are attached to muscle and bone which put them at varying degrees of exposure to becoming inflamed or irritated. Uncomfortable symptoms make it challenging to function with pain and stiffness around the joint where the tendon that is affected is supporting. While tendonitis is often temporary, if you don’t take care of it, it could reoccur or become chronic.
How Does Yoga Help Heal Tendonitis?
Tendonitis heals acutely and subacutely. Yoga is capable of supporting both stages of healing because it activates the lymphatic system while also improving circulation in the area of the injury. Yoga is most effective for the subacute stage of tendonitis and also prevents tendonitis from coming back over and over.
Gentle stretching is the first step to rehabilitating tendons that are injured. The key here is gentle, don’t stretch to the point of experiencing pain. It’s also important to strengthen muscles that surround an injured tendon. Yoga has many gentle poses that both stretch and strengthen specific areas of the body. It also helps increase the joint range of motion. Whatever yoga poses you see fit to do in order to gain back your strength and flexibility should include an adequate, gentle warm up. Yoga should be used in conjunction with conventional therapy for tendonitis.
Poses You Should Avoid
There are certain poses that can cause tendonitis in the shoulders. If you’ve experienced shoulder tendonitis in your past, you might want to skip out on Chaturangaor Cobra Pose altogether. If you really want to practice yoga safely, you might want to get your yoga teacher training. Even if you don’t want to become a yoga instructor, you’ll still gain valuable knowledge on posture to best avoid injuries.
Wall Plank Pose
One of the ways to avoid injury and strengthen your shoulders is to gently learn where your scapulae should sit on your back. This improves odds of putting strain on your shoulders that cause tendonitis in the first place. You also work on your alignment so you can handle poses that put weight on the sensitive shoulder area.
Wall plank pose is a great way to accomplish the mindfulness of where your shoulders should be sitting. Here’s how it’s done;
Stand facing the wall with your palms against the wall and at your shoulder height. Draw your scapulae down your back. This warms up the serratus anterior and also keeps the tips of the scapulae up against the rib cage. Think of yourself pushing the wall away from you, this is going to cause the shoulder blades to separate. Now, externally rotate your shoulders as you try to twist the wall to the right with your right hand. Do this on the left hand side also.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward dog has a great many health benefits to it. It stretches out the body in the front and back and puts pressure on the abdominal organs, creating better digestion. When done properly, it can heal shoulder injuries and strengthen the area to avoid injury in the future. Your arms will be overhead and will be handling some of the weight so it’s important that you keep a few things in mind.
Keep the scapulae moving away from each other as well as moving down the back. In other words, don’t let your shoulders touch your ears. You also want your humerus to spin backward. Your shoulders will pinch if you’re not doing it properly so pay attention to your body. You can bend your knees to better support your shoulder girdle.
Cow Face Pose
Yoga poses like cow face pose are beneficial because they lubricate the joints and soft tissues of the shoulder.
Sit cross-legged in the pose and face your right palm ahead and the left palm back. Reach your right arm to the sky and your left arm behind you until it can go no further. Bend both your elbows and walk your fingers to meet. You may need to use a strap for this if you’re not flexible enough yet. Don’t allow the ribs or spine to go out of alignment. Switch sides after staying in the pose for 5 breaths.
Mountain pose is a nice gentle pose that makes you aware of how much tension is being held in the shoulders. This pose isolates the shoulders that help reset and strengthen day to day stress we put on our shoulders.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and let your arms hang by your side naturally. Roll your shoulders down your back so that your posture is straight. Externally rotate your shoulders to the point of your thumbs pointing behind you. This will activate the back of your rotator cuff. While in mountain pose, you can also try to draw the backs of your arms to your sides without disrupting where the shoulders are sitting. This will motivate any weak muscle fibers that aren’t functioning fully.
When you’re suffering from tendonitis, you want to keep movement going but in a gentle way. Building strength and flexibility slowly is essential. Most importantly, developing a daily practice will prevent injury and allow you to keep building towards total rehabilitation. You may wish to get a one-on-one session with a yoga teacher so they can put full attention on teaching you posture. This will alleviate any risk of injury through yoga.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)