15 Heart-Opening Yoga Poses to Release Chest and Shoulder Pain

avatarKelly Collins

These heart-opening yoga poses will counteract bad posture to melt your chest and shoulder tightness away.

Yoga can be a lifesaver when it comes to reversing the damage done by bad posture. Performing certain poses can help you release muscles that are tight and strengthening muscles that are weak. This is essential for poor posture because with tight chests and shoulders, comes weak back, neck, and core muscles.

Heart-opening yoga poses can also help to prevent future damage when done on a regular basis.

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Practice these poses when your posture feels slumped, or after a long day of sitting. You’ll need a mat, a bolster or pillow, and two yoga blocks.


15 Heart-Opening Yoga Poses

Supported Fish | 10 breaths

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Begin with this restorative yoga pose to gently open up the chest and shoulders.

  1. Place a bolster or pillow going up and down your mat.
  2. Sit in front of it, then lower your back and head onto the bolster. Your hips should stay on the ground.
  3. Extend your arms straight out to the sides. You can keep your feet on the ground or straighten your legs down the mat. Close your eyes and relax here for 10 breaths.

Bound Bridge | 8 breaths

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You’ll open up the chest and shoulders while also strengthening the core and glutes.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width distance apart on the floor. Try to bring your feet close enough to your body that you can touch your heels with your fingertips.
  2. Inhale to slowly lift your hips up towards the sky to come into a bridge pose.
  3. Then, interlace your hands underneath your lower back and squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other. Engage your lower abs and hold for 8 breaths.

Baby Cobra | 3 reps

Baby-Cobra.jpg

Strengthen the muscles along your spine to improve posture.

  1. Flip around so you’re on your belly, with your legs together and straight behind you. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the mat next to your ribs so that your elbows point up towards the sky. Rest your forehead on your mat so that the back of your neck is long.
  2. On an inhale, firmly press the tops of your feet down onto your mat as you lift your head, chest, and palms off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, then release on an exhale.
  3. Repeat for a total of 3 rounds.

Cobra | 3 reps

Cobra.jpg

Take baby cobra to the next level with this version that stretches the entire front of the body, from the chest and shoulders down to the belly and hip flexors.

  1. Begin in the same starting position as above, lying on your belly with your palms on the mat, stacking your elbows above your wrists.
  2. Engage your abs, then inhale to press into your palms to lift your head and chest off the mat, keeping your hands on the mat.
  3. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows and keep your shoulders back and down. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for a total of 3 rounds.

Standing Backbend | 5 breaths

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Feel your collarbone lengthen and your chest open with this energizing pose.

  1. Begin standing with your feet hip-width distance apart. Place your palms on your lower back with your fingers pointing up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and point your elbows back.
  2. Take an inhale to lift your chest up and back to come into a slight backbend, gazing up toward the ceiling.
  3. Hold for 5 breaths, lifting your chest more with each inhale, and engaging your abs with each exhale.

Bound Forward Fold | 8 breaths

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Reverse blood flow towards the brain, helping to improve circulation while opening up the chest and shoulders.

  1. Continue standing with your feet hip-width distance apart or wider. Interlace your fingers behind your lower back and make sure to keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  2. Take an inhale to lengthen your spine, then bend your knees and fold forward, resting your belly on your thighs. Pull your hands up and away from your lower back.
  3. Hold for 8 breaths, then rise back up to standing on an inhale.

Child’s Pose with Tricep Stretch | 8 breaths

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Enjoy a break with this feel-good pose that opens up the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

  1. Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Separate your knees out wide to the edges of your mat and bring your toes together. Sit your hips back onto your heels, then walk your hands towards the top of the mat and rest your forehead down to come into child’s pose.
  2. Bring your palms together, then bend your elbows to rest your thumbs on the back of your neck. To deepen the stretch, wriggle your elbows towards the top of the mat a little bit more.
  3. Close your eyes and relax here for 8 deep breaths.

Bound Warrior 1 | 5 breaths per side

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Open up tight shoulders while also strengthening the core and legs.

  1. Stand at the back of your mat. Take a big step forward with your right foot. Turn your back toes out at a 45-degree angle and square your hips to the top of your mat. Engage your lower abs and slightly tilt your tailbone downwards.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your lower back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your hands back and away from your body to feel a stretch through your chest and shoulders. Keep a slight bend in your elbows the whole time.
  3. Hold for 5 breaths, then switch your legs and repeat on the other side.

Humble Warrior | 5 breaths per side

Humble-Warrior.jpg

Challenge your balance and core strength while getting a nice release across the chest and shoulders.

  1. Stand at the back of your mat. Take a big step forward with your right foot and then turn your back toes out to a 45-degree angle. Square your hips to the top of your mat.
  2. Interlace your hands behind your lower back to feel a stretch across your chest and shoulders.
  3. Take an inhale and puff up your chest. Then, exhale and bow your chest forward, resting your right shoulder on top of your right thigh, gazing towards your left knee.
  4. Hold for 5 breaths, keeping your legs and abs strong to allow the shoulders to open up.
  5. Lift back up on an inhale. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.

Eagle Arms | 8 breaths per side

Eagle-Arms.jpg

This pose releases tension from the back of the heart space.

  1. Sit comfortably on a yoga block.
  2. Inhale to reach your arms out to the sides, then exhale to cross your left arm under your right arm, bend your elbows, and cross your forearms to bring your palms together. If your shoulders are too tight for this, then simply rest your hands on opposite shoulders.
  3. Lift your elbows up in line with your shoulders and press them forward to feel a stretch through the upper back and rear delts.
  4. Hold for 8 breaths, then switch the crossing of your arms and repeat.

Low Lunge Twist | 5 breaths per side

Low-Lunge-Twist.jpg

This lunge variation melts the tension out of your shoulders, chest, and spine.

  1. Begin in a low lunge position with your right foot between your hands and your left knee on the mat, toes untucked. Press your hips down and forward to feel a stretch through the front of your hips and make sure that the right knee is stacked over the ankle.
  2. Bring your left palm to the mat and on an inhale, twist your right arm towards the sky.
  3. Stay for 5 breaths, lengthening your spine on your inhales and twisting deeper on your exhales. Switch sides.

Modified Camel | 5 breaths

Modified-Camel.jpg

Reverse the tightness that comes from prolonged periods of sitting.

  1. Kneel on your mat with your knees hip-width distance apart. If you have lower back tightness, bring the knees out a little bit wider.
  2. Place your palms on your lower back with your fingertips pointing up. Engage your abs.
  3. Pressing down with your palms, take an inhale to lift your chest up and back to come into a backbend. Hold for 5 breaths, lifting out of your lower back the entire time.

Puppy Pose | 5 breaths

Puppy-Pose.jpg

Stretch your chest, shoulders and arms in this one heart-opening move.

  1. Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your hips stacked over your knees as you walk your hands towards the top of your mat, lowering your forehead to the ground. Continue walking your hands forward until your arms are straight, then relax your arms.
  3. Feel the stretch through your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Hold for 5 deep breaths.

Shoulder Pigeon | 8 breaths per side

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This pose stretches the tension out of your shoulders and chest.

  1. Lie face down on your mat and reach your arms out to the sides with the palms face down. Rest your right cheek down on the mat.
  2. Then bend your left knee and press into your left palm to roll onto your right shoulder. Step your left foot outside of your right thigh.
  3. Close your eyes and relax here for 8 breaths, then switch sides.

Supine Twists | 8 breaths per side

Supine-Twists.jpg

Twist your pain and stiffness away with this calming restorative pose.

  1. Lie on your back. Hug your right knee into your chest and straighten your left leg down your mat.
  2. Take a deep inhale, then exhale to twist your right leg across your body. Straighten your right arm out to the side, keeping the shoulder on the ground, and look straight up or over your right shoulder. Rest your left palm on your outer right thigh.
  3. Relax here for 8 breaths, then switch sides.

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(Your Next Workout: 13 Hip-Opening Stretches to Loosen Tightness)

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