There are many aspects to a workout regimen.  The components many people first think of are strength training, cardio and nutrition.  What about stretching?  Aside from lengthening the muscles you are activating during your regular workouts, consider the muscles that can become overactive due to everyday activities.  As a personal trainer, many clients come to me with tight shoulders and hips.  This is not uncommon for most of America since many work at a desk for 8 hours or more per day.  If you go from work, to a long commute in your car, to sitting at home watching T.V. then you will be in this seated position all day long.  Tight chest and shoulders can lead to neck pain and poor posture while tight hips can create discomfort in the lower back.  Not good!

A few years ago, I had a friend introduce me to yoga.  The surprising thing that I noticed was that I wasn’t very flexible to start.  I had stretched after my workouts, but it was obvious that what I was doing was just not enough.  After practicing yoga regularly, I began to incorporate these poses into my personal training programs to help correct issues with my clients.  These poses are very accessible so clients can do them when they are not

To make these more effective, I suggest holding these stretches for 30-45 seconds and repeating 2-3 times after your workout.  Since the key to progress is consistency, these should be performed multiple times a week.

  1. Reverse Plank –  One of my favorites to open my shoulders & work my core.  If your shoulders are really tight, I would recommend just placing your arms into extension so your fingers are pointing towards you.  As your shoulders become more open you can add the external rotation of the shoulder so the fingers point away from you.  A modification can be made for the core by bending the knees and stacking the knees over the ankles.  This is also known as reverse table top.
  2. Forward Fold – This pose can be done seated or standing.  If you are unable to touch your toes I recommend bending your knees to make that connection.  You can use this connection with your feet to help you leverage more into your hamstrings. Avoid rounding the back so you aren’t  forcing the stretch.  
  3. Low Lunge – Opening up into the hip flexors feels great if you spend large amounts of your day seated.  If you have sensitive knees you may want to put some extra padding under the knee. You can also go deeper into this pose by reaching into a side bend with the arm of the extended leg. For instance, if your right knee is on the ground you would bend to the left reaching with the right arm.

Do you have any other yoga poses for shoulder or hip opening that you use for yourself or for your clients?

Christine Oakes

Christine Oakes is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Health Coach, NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and 200RYT certified yoga instructor . She currently operates her own fitness company offering personal training, bootcamp and yoga classes in the Mountain View, CA area. Christine has had a love for being active since childhood and believes that true fitness comes from a balance of strength, nutrition, flexibility and a dose of fun. Learn more about Christine at