Neck in knots? “Shoulder flossing” is the surefire way to loosen up


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Photo: Getty Images/Cultura RM Exclusive/Edwin Jimenez

As much as I love yoga, a good chunk of a vinyasa flow can be pretty uncomfortable. High lunge with a twist? Not easy to hold. Chaturanga is just a glorified, high-vibe push-up. And don’t even get me started on chair pose.  So when I found myself in a yoga class at New York’s Sky Ting yoga studio yesterday doing something called “shoulder flossing”—which felt really, really good—I was pleasantly surprised.

If you’ve never experienced such a move before, allow me to explain: It involves standing up straight, clasping your hands and  turning your palms outwards, then circling your arms behind and over your head, coming through on the other side of your body. And over and over again in both directions. It looks kinda funny and you feel like a monkey or something, but it is a delight to do.

“I do it every single day—it’s my go to,” raves Tommy Lucas, my yoga instructor from Sky Ting. “I teach shoulder flossing in every single class. You just clasp your hands, put them over head, and pretend you’re Vogue-ing, sing a song, do anything—put music to it. Go in both directions and get weird with it.”

Doing this shoulder-opening technique feels good for a reason: It moves them around a lot, which is necessary considering how much of the day most of us spent hunched over. “It’s great because it moves truly around every possible direction of the shoulder,” says Lucas. “We get pretty specific in shoulder mobility with front, back, side, or up, versus sometimes movement is just great. It’s non-linear. You get around the whole joint and you’re just moving through it.”

It’s not just helping to open your shoulders, either. Lucas says the benefits are for your entire upper torso. “Shoulder flossing not only moves through the shoulder, but it starts to decrease compression in the neck, and releases everything in the whole pectoral girdle,” he says. “You’re using everything from your lowest ribs up to your skull.” And if the move is too intense, you can try it with a towel or resistance band.

This fluidity and movement increases your flexibility and shoulder mobility, and just helps to keep things up and open. So next time you’re flossing your teeth—which should, ahem, be every single day—think about doing this type of flossing too.

BTW, here’s exactly why flexibility is important for your health. And these are the yogi-approved ways to use a yoga block to enhance your practice. 

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