Upper Body Circles

Joint Range of Motion Warm Up

"That's how it is in yoga. The places where you have the most resistance are actually the places that are going to be the areas of greatest liberation." - Rodney Yee

Upper Body Circles

Introduction to Upper Body Circles

Upper Body Circles

This simple movement yoga practice warms up and lubricates the joints throughout the upper-body kinetic chain. 

This practice can be done seated in a chair, or in a standing position. 

The goal is to make circular motions in the shoulders and wrists and try to build toward the full range of motion in each joint. To lubricate your entire shoulder girdle and wholistically integrate the movement with your upper body, explore this movement in a free-form way with upper body circles as your inspiration. 

If you have arthritis, ROM work in all of your joints before exercise is a must. Make sure you do not move any joint into a pain range. Listen carefully to your body and only move into a range that is comfortable, building gradually. Always start with smaller movements and increase your movement progressively as you feel your body easing into the movement.

How to Practice Upper Body Circles: The Shoulders

  1. Start in your desired position: either standing, or seated in a chair.
  2. Roll your shoulders forward. You may feel your shoulder blades sliding away from your spine, resulting in a slight rounding. 
  3. Next draw your shoulders up towards your ears, shortening the distance between your shoulders and ears. 
  4. Keeping your shoulders lifted, draw your shoulder blades toward your spine, so your chest opens. 
  5. Finally, draw your shoulders down away from the ears while maintaining openness in the front of the chest. 
  6. Smoothly move through these positions so you create shoulder “circles.” 
  7. Reverse the direction for several repetitions.

How to Practice Upper Body Circles: Elbow-Lead Circles

  1. From seated or standing, place your fingertips on your shoulders (as pictured.) 
  2. Reach your elbows forward in front of your body. 
  3. Now draw circles in space with your elbows, starting with small circles and progressively increasing your range of motion. 
  4. Draw your circles in both directions, allowing yourself to explore your range of motion and lubricate the shoulder joints.

How to Practice Upper Body Circles: Finger-Tip Led Circles

  1. Start in a standing or seated position with your arms extended down by your sides. 
  2. With your palms both facing toward your body, bring both arms forward and up over head with your upper arm bones alongside the ears or, if you have restricted movement, as far as you can lift your arms in a pain-free range.
  3. Open your palms outward (the thumbs will start to face toward the front of your mat) as you draw your arms back and down behind your body. 
  4. Repeat in each direction several times.

Practice Tips

You can practice these circular patterns as a stand-alone warm up for a yoga practice, or combine them into an extended upper body joint warm up sequence.

Recommended Use

Lubricating the joints helps to bathe them evenly in synovial fluid and hydrates the surrounding tissue. Gentle movements like this warm-up sequence are a perfect way to begin any yoga practice, or to wake up the joints after long periods of inactivity.

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