Reach Through Shoulder Stretch

Have you ever felt a certain amount of annoying tightness in your shoulders and upper back, but you just haven’t been sure how to fix it? Maybe you’ve tried to stretch your arms or back, but you just couldn’t hit that spot to relieve the pain. 

Let us introduce you to the Reach Through Shoulder stretch. Sometimes called the “Thread The Needle Pose” in Yoga, the Reach Through Shoulder Stretch will alleviate tension in your shoulders, lower back, chest, arms, and neck. It will also give a really nice twist through the spine which is the unique part of this particular stretch. 

Who Needs to Do This Stretch? 

Some people may be wary when we say this is a yoga pose, and it might seem just a little bit complicated at first, but once you get used to the motions it should start to feel like second nature. It’s important to learn the foundations of the movement first before jumping right in as to avoid any unnecessary injury. We believe that this pose should be performed regularly by most people as a preventative measure to avoid any tightness and keep the muscles in the chest, back, shoulders, and neck supple and flexible.

This stretch is especially beneficial for people who carry a lot of tension in their shoulders and upper back. If you type at the computer a lot or sit in a hunched position quite regularly (tech neck, anyone?), this stretch will feel especially good on your body. But again, this stretch can be performed by anyone who wants to mobilize the upper body and spine. 

What is the Reach Through Shoulder Stretch? 

All you need for the stretch is some free space on the floor. The stretch starts in the traditional Tabletop position – on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hip points. On an inhale, sweep your right arm up towards the sky. On an exhale, bring the arm back down and slide it (or “thread it”) under the left, bringing the right shoulder towards the ground. The right side of your face can rest gently on the ground. The left elbow should remain raised, as well as the hips. Breathe deeply and let your breath guide you through the pose. After holding for your desired amount of time, slowly unwind out of the stretch back into neutral Tabletop. Repeat on the other side. 

You may feel your back pop or crack while doing this pose. As long as there is no accompanying pain, that should be nothing to cause concern. But, as always, listen to your own body. 

Reach Through Shoulder Stretch Modifications

Some people may find that this stretch puts a little too much pressure on their knees. If this is the case, please feel free to use a blanket or towel to pad the knees and relieve that pressure. This stretch can also be done on the forearms, as opposed to the wrists, if the wrists feel sensitive bearing weight. Always move slowly through the stretch and breathe deeply. Rather than trying to nail the correct positioning, listen to your body and find what feels best within your own abilities and limitations. Always use your breath as a guide. If it gets to the point where you feel like you can no longer take slow, deep breaths, come out of the stretch a bit to regain your steady breath. 

Reach Through Shoulder Stretch Benefits 

This stretch will give your shoulders and back a good twist, perhaps in a way that you’ve not yet subjected your body to before.

Don’t worry though, this is a low-impact and beginner’s movement and should have you feeling immediate benefits regarding any tightness you’ve been experiencing in your lower spine and rotator cuffs. Particularly if you work at a non-physical desk job, your shoulder muscles probably experience stiffness as well as your back getting impacted throughout the day. The Reach Through Shoulder Stretch is one of the best stretches you can perform for anyone suffering muscle tightness from sedentary work. Not only does the stretch help open up and loosen these areas, but it’s a great opportunity for you to connect deeply with your breath. This pose should be done in sync with deep breaths to allow your body to relax and get the full effect of the stretch. 

Reach Through Shoulder Stretch Cautions 

While the reach through shoulder stretch can be beneficial for so many, there are certain people who should be cautious when approaching this stretch. If you have had previous or current back, knee, or shoulder injuries, back, knee, or shoulder pain, or degenerative disc disease, take appropriate caution with this stretch. If you do have one of these issues, please consult your personal healthcare professional to see if it’s one to incorporate into your daily stretching routine. We always want to prioritize safety when trying a new stretch. 

How to perform a reach through shoulder stretch

reach through shoulder stretch demo lying on floor

To perform, start on your hands and knees on a comfortable mat or carpeted area of the floor.

Take your right hand and flip it so your palm is facing toward the ceiling and point your fingers in the direction of the left side of your body.

Slowly pass your right upwards facing palm under your left armpit creating a gentle twist in your body.

Keep extending your right arm out under your left armpit and start lowering your upper body down yards the floor. Keep your left palm flat against the floor.

Twist your head to follow the movement of your right hand and end up with both your right shoulder and right temple of your head resting on the floor with your right arm out as far as it can go past your left side. Your knees remain on the floor and buttocks up in the air.

The weight of your upper body should now be resting simultaneously on the right side of your head, your right shoulder, and left hand. Try to feel comfortable in this position for a moment and adjust if necessary.

For the final part of the stretch: maintain your balance, take your left hand, and then raise it up above you so your fingers are pointed at the ceiling creating a new twist in the opposite direction.

Then fold your left hand and forearm behind your lower back. Only your head and right shoulder should be touching the ground at this point.

Hold this position for 20-30 seconds while focusing on your breathing.

To return, bring your left hand back from behind your back, place your left palm back on the floor and use it to gently lift your body back up as your pull your right hand back through your armpit to also rest again flat on the floor. You should now have returned to your original hands and knees position.

You should feel a deep, relaxing stretch in your back, shoulders, and neck. But if for any reason you’re feeling discomfort, do stop immediately. Some people who have chronic neck or knee pain should proceed with caution when performing this movement. If your knees hurt, try putting a folded blanket or pad underneath them. If you experience and pain in your wrists, try lowering down to your forearms instead and put a blanket under them to give yourself a little more leverage.

Reach through shoulder stretch video demonstration


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.

Other Movements

Table Top Bridge
Hamstring Smash
Lying Quad Stretch