Knee to Opposite Shoulder

written by
Joel Runyon
last updated
October 4, 2021

Some stretches are named in such a way that it is almost impossible to guess how you would attempt it. Take, for example, the pigeon pose. Instinctually, I would not be able to guess how to do this pose if it was new to me. ( How exactly does one pose like a pigeon?) 

But allow me to digress before I get too off topic here. 

This stretch is called the Knee to Opposite Shoulder stretch, and chances are you could perform this pose without much knowledge about its fundamentals. Yes, your knee will be pulled towards your opposite shoulder. It is an excellent stretch that will really help release and target the piriformis muscle

The piriformis is a small muscle that runs from the sacrum to the top of the thigh bone. Many people experience tightness in the piriformis muscle. Unfortunately, when this occurs, sciatica commonly appears. Sciatica is a nerve pain condition that leaves you with shooting pain or burning sensation which originates from the glute muscle and can run down the length of your leg. This is one reason why it is so important to do regular stretching that specifically targets the piriformis muscle. 

Whether you are an athlete that hits the gym five to six days a week or someone who is just starting out on their fitness journey, incorporating targeted stretches that can impact different areas of the body is vital for a proper care and recovery routine. 

If you’re ready to incorporate the Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch, I urge you to keep reading. This article will outline how to perform the stretch, the benefits of keeping up with this stretch in your routine, and ways to modify it if needed. 

What is the Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch? 

This stretch really could not be simpler. All you need is some open space on the floor. Having a yoga mat on hand or perhaps a padded or carpeting space might also be beneficial if lying on a hard surface would irritate your back. This is certainly not necessary though. 

Start this pose by coming onto your back. In this supine position, your legs should be fully extended. From here, raise your right leg, bend your knee, and pull it in towards your body. Wrap both hands around your leg to make this a bit easier. Once you’ve held your leg at your chest for a few moments, slowly begin to draw it over towards your left shoulder. Focus on keeping both shoulder blades pinned down to the ground. 

This is where you should feel that stretch in your outer hip and piriformis muscle. Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth while you focus on relaxing deeper into the stretch. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds. 

Once this stretch has been completed on one side, slowly release and come back into the starting position. Complete on the other side following the same movement pattern. 

Benefits of the Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch

Of course, we have already briefly discussed that this is a great stretch for helping to provide relief for tightened piriformis muscles. We also love this stretch because it is so easy and accessible to perform anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you are short on equipment, traveling without access to a gym, or even short on time, just holding this stretch for 30 seconds on each side is better than nothing. 

Sciatic nerve pain can be incredibly debilitating, so if you do struggle with this condition, this could be an effective stretch to incorporate into your daily routine. That being said, it is always best to consult with your personal healthcare professional before attempting - especially if your pain is severe. It is best to work closely with them to determine the best course of action. Once you receive the green light for this stretch, we recommend holding it daily for best results. 

Knee to Opposite Shoulder Modifications 

If bringing your knee to your opposite shoulder feels a little too intense for your current mobility situation, there are ways to adjust to meet your needs. One modification is to only bring the knee into the chest. Hold here at the chest while you breathe deeply. Begin to inch the knee slowly over towards your opposite shoulder as your mobility allows. Even if you can only move one inch to the other side, hold here at this position. Repeatedly attempt this day after day, trying to increase that range of motion more and more each time. Before you know it, you will have that knee to your opposite shoulder in no time! 

If you need to intensify this stretch, follow these steps. Come onto your back with your feet planted on the ground and knees bent. Cross the right leg over the left and place your ankle on the top of the thigh right above the knee. Grab your right knee with your left hand and guide it over towards your left shoulder. This should help intensify this stretch a bit. 

The sensation might feel like a big stretch - and maybe even some discomfort - but it should never be painful. If you do feel pain, cease the stretch immediately. Seek care if you deem appropriate.


lying knee to opposite shoulder stretch

Starting in a supine position, draw (left/right) knee into the chest. Hold for (duration). Slowly draw that knee over to the opposite shoulder keeping your back on the ground.

written by
Joel Runyon

Joel is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE and the founder of MoveWell. Joel founded MoveWell after sustaining an injury while running an ultra marathon on every continent. Joel is writes about mobility, pain management and health and wellness overall.

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