Reach For It: Troubleshooting Back and Shoulder Flexibility

Back and Shoulder Flexibility

By now, you have probably tried last week’s exercise.

How is your Pigeon or Dancer Pose coming along?

Did you have any issues with it or see any improvements? If you struggled to see any improvement, here are some tips as to why that happened.

Twist Lower

Back and Shoulder Flexibility: It is important to rotate during the Leverage from as low on the spine as possible. This way you are stretching your psoas muscle while simultaneously working the stabilizing back muscles. If you only twist from the upper spine, the psoas will not be affected.

So if you twist to the right first, you will be stretching your left psoas, and vice versa for the other side. Do not let this action come from the upper back or shoulders at all!

Lift Higher

Back and Shoulder Flexibility

It is imperative that you continue advancing into the Target. Reasons you may not be achieving your target include not doing the leverage properly (as addressed above), but could also be affected by other factors.

These other factors include:

  • Timing– Are you spending too much time in the Target or Leverage? Remember, Zaichik Stretching involves movement. You are not supposed to hold any part of this exercise. Do not move too quickly as to jerk the body around, of course, but try to flow smoothly through the movement.
  • Breath– Are you breathing while you are performing this exercise? Considering that we are stretching the entire front body and torso which houses our lungs, breathing could make a huge difference. Try to exhale as you twist into the Leverage and inhale as you lengthen the spine back into the Target. Exhalations empty the lungs, therefore creating space in the body. Inhalations are naturally lifting and lengthening. Try it out and see how you do!

What about the shoulders?

Shoulder mobility definitely plays an important role in this posture as well. Let’s review the actions of the shoulder joint needed to accomplish the action of grabbing the foot.

  • When moving into the position, the serratus anterior, infraspinatus, teres minor, as well as the anterior and middle deltoid contract to move the arm from a shoulder extension into shoulder flexion.
  • The muscles that need to lengthen in order for this complicated action to happen are the rhomboids, pectoralis major and minor, triceps, lattismus dorsi, and posterior deltoid fibers.
  • If even just one of these areas is too tight or too weak, it will hold you back from accomplishing this position

We will focus on a stretch that targets the lattitsmus dorsi and pectoralis major next, which help to open the front of the chest and underneath the shoulders. Many overhead athletes have overdeveloped lats and pecs, which is why it is so important to incorporate this stretch into your routine.

Back and Shoulder Flexibility


  1. Start in a kneeling position, on your knees
  2. Place your elbows on the floor in front of you at a 90 degree angle, so that you are leaning forward over the legs
  3. Bend your right arm so your right hand is by your right ear, and place your other hand inside the right elbow crease to stabilize
  4. Lean into the right shoulder and apply external rotation to the shoulder joint. This is your Leverage.
  5. Return to the center and sink your right armpit closer to the ground.
  6. Repeat 3 times on this side, and then change to the other side.

The photo below shows the Leverage position of ~Certitude~:

Back and Shoulder Flexibility

This exercise emphasizes flexion of the shoulder joint (which is the ultimate overhead action we are seeking when reaching the foot) while passing through external rotation (which is also required for this specific action). Try this KST for a few days, and then return to your Pigeon or Dancer Pose and see if you notice any differences. Check in with us next week for an update on this sequence!

Back and Shoulder Flexibility

Let us show you how to achieve the Natarajasana Pose Fast, Safe and Easy!

Our programs are scientifically based and created by 
 world-renowned fitness & flexibility expert Paul Zaichik

This position calls for deep flexibility of the hip flexors and flexors of the spine. Moderate hamstrings flexibility of the supporting leg is called upon as well. The pose can be helped by having flexible shoulder extensors.

This program avoids the pain of the stretch reflex, allowing for much quicker and safer flexibility gains. Having lengthened each tissue by itself, the pose is put back together. Most people see amazing results just after the first time of trying this program. 

Click here to learn more about out Natarajasana program!

Back and Shoulder Flexibility

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