Rotator Cuff Muscles in Yoga

Ever had a shoulder injury? Did your yoga teacher tell you It was because your alignment was off? This might be true, but it’s much more common that your rotator cuff muscles are underdeveloped (weak) and shortened (tight).

Mat-based yoga classes are an amazing, low-impact way to build functional fitness, but shoulder strength is an area that’s often lacking and difficult to fill with mat-only work.

Supraspinatus. Lift your arm out at your sides to engage this muscle (abduction). This small muscle on the top of the cuff is most likely to get injured. The muscle passes under the coracoacromial arch (ligament roof of the shoulder). This ligament is often collapsed and atrophied from lack of shoulder flexion in daily life and can impinge on the muscle.

Infraspinatus. Lift your arm and wind up and back like you’re about to throw a baseball. Your Infraspinatus is the big mover here.

Teres Minor. This is the smallest rotator cuff muscle. It’s a helper to the other lateral rotators and stabilizers.

Subscapularis. Lift your hand up into the air, now rotate your shoulder inward so your hand touches your heart. That medial rotation is largely driven by the subscapularis, this is the only muscle of the cuff that rotates the shoulder joint medially (toward your heart).

Active Learning – Rotator Cuff

One of the best ways to learn anatomy is to interact with the learning in different ways. Print out this page, and hand write the name of each of the four muscles. Use color pencils or crayons to color in each of the muscles. As you explore each of the four muscles, move your shoulder joint to feel that muscle as well. This type of interactively learning will help integrate this knowledge into your body, mind, and practice.