Thread the Needle Pose is a shoulder-releasing yoga posture that is suitable for all students, including beginners. If you have stiffness and pain in your back, shoulders, or neck, this pose can provide relief! Thread the Needle offers variations to suit your level of flexibility. Keep reading to learn more about this pose.
This yoga posture, while complicated to get into, can give you a great stretch through the chest and shoulders. It also requires a gentle twisting motion that can help stretch and loosen the muscles in the low back. If you are dealing with chronic shoulder or back pain, this posture can help gently loosen the muscles and relieve tension.
Benefits of Thread the Needle Pose
The body can feel completely at ease and natural every moment. Just let it.
Thread the Needle Pose stretches and opens the shoulders, chest, arms, upper back, and neck. It releases the tension that is commonly held in the upper back and between the shoulder blades. This pose also provides a mild twist to the spine, which further reduces tension. Practicing the pose with your hips on your heels (see Modifications & Variations, below) also stretches the hips, thighs, and lower back.
Avoid practicing this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to your knees, shoulders, or neck. Those with back pain, back injuries, or degenerative disk disease should approach this pose with caution and should only attempt to practice it under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin on your hands and knees. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward. This is Table Pose.
- On an exhalation, slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat, then gaze toward your left.
- Keep your left elbow lifting and your hips raised. Do not press your weight onto your head; instead, adjust your position so you do not strain your neck or shoulder.
- Let your upper back broaden. Soften and relax your lower back. Allow all of the tension in your shoulders, arms, and neck to drain away.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, press through your left hand and gently slide your right hand out. Return to Table Pose. Then repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.
Modifications & Variations
Since Thread the Needle is a calming position, it’s important to make whatever modifications you need to feel comfortable, safe, and supported in the pose. To lighten or deepen the intensity of the pose, try these simple changes:
- If your knee caps hurt, fold your mat or place a firm blanket under your knees.
- If your wrists hurt in the starting position, place your forearms on the floor, instead.
- Place your forearms on a bolster or stack of firm blankets to lift your torso more upright. This variation is especially useful for women who are pregnant. Rest your ear on the bolster and let your "threaded" arm drop toward the floor.
- For a deeper shoulder stretch, come into the full pose. Then, bring the lower arm of the elbow that is bent (the arm that is not doing the "threading") behind your body and rest the back of that hand on your low back. Your lower arm should remain on the floor with your palm facing up.
Those with larger chests or stomachs, and women who are pregnant, can practice this pose at a wall, while standing:
- Face the wall, standing an arm's distance away. Press your palms flat against the wall.
- Slide your right arm beneath your left arm, and bring your right shoulder and ear to the wall. You may need to step closer to the wall to do this.
- Hold for up to one minute, and then repeat on the opposite side.
For a deeper full-body stretch, come into the position from Child's Pose (Balasana):
- Begin in Table Pose. Spread your knees wide apart and drop your hips back toward your heels.
- Bow forward and drape your torso between your thighs. Your heart and chest should rest between or on top of your thighs. Allow your forehead to come to the floor. This is Child's Pose.
- Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down. Then slide your right arm beneath your left arm, keeping your palm facing up. Turn your head so you gaze to the left. Relax your entire body. Hold for up to one minute. Return to Child's Pose, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Thread the Needle can be a simple way to release shoulder tension throughout your day, or as part of your regular yoga practice. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Move slowly in and out of the pose.
- Keep your breath smooth and even. The deeper you breathe, the more your body will be able to relax. With every exhalation, release your shoulders a little more into the pose.
- Keep your gaze soft.
- Keep your collarbones broad; do not let your raised shoulder collapse in toward your chest. This helps to protect your neck, while also increasing flexibility and strength in your shoulders and chest.
Thread to Unwind
You can practice Thread the Needle any time throughout the day when you need to release shoulder and neck tension. It can feel good at the end of a long day to stretch out these parts of your upper body. Regularly integrating Thread the Needle into your practice will help you create balance, peace, and well-being even off the mat!