At the Yoga Journal Conference  in San Francisco, LA yogi Vinnie Marino's class was artfully designed to open up tight shoulders, since the sweet spot between the shoulder blades is one of the most common places we hold stress. If you experience tightness or are constantly attempting to move your shoulders away from your ears, this yoga sequence will help you open your shoulder space to give it the attention it deserves.
Downward Facing Dog
Tight shoulders get warmed up and a big release in Downward Dog:
- Begin on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be underneath your shoulders, and your knees should be underneath your hips.
- Inhale as you tuck your toes under your heels. Then exhale to lift your hips, coming into an upside-down "V" shape called Downward Facing Dog.
- Spread your fingers wide and create a straight line between your middle fingers and elbows. Work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels toward the ground.
- Relax your head between your arms and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button. Hold for five breaths.
Once you get a little warmed up in Downward Facing Dog, you'll find even more release in your shoulders with Quarter Dog:
- From Downward Facing Dog , spread your fingers wide and lower your forearms one at a time to the mat.
- Check to make sure you're creating a straight line between your elbows and middle fingers.
- Try to straighten your legs and lower your heels toward the ground as much as you can. Your heels should be slightly wider than your toes, so the outside edges of your feet are parallel with the outside edges of the mat.
- Relax your head between your arms, and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button. Hold for five breaths.
Rotated Side Angle
All the muscles along your spine get a big, deep stretch in Rotated Side Angle:
- From Quarter Dog pose , move through a vinyasa (Four-Limbed Staff  to Up Dog  to Down Dog ).
- Once you're in Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lift your arms up and press your palms together, coming into Warrior 1 .
- Now lower your elbows toward your chest and rotate your torso to the left, crossing your right elbow over your left thigh. Actively press your right tricep into your left quad to lift your chest as high as you can. Gaze over your left shoulder, and hold for five breaths.
- Release your hands to the mat, step your right foot back, and come back into Down Dog. Then repeat this pose on the left side.
If you're still a little perplexed, get all the details on Rotated Side Angle .
Standing Forward Bend Pose
Standing Forward Bend helps calm everything down in the back of your body. Dropping your chin in toward your chest releases the space in between your shoulders. You'll be amazed at how the stress melts away:
- From Rotated Side Angle , move through a vinyasa (Four-Limbed Staff  to Up Dog  to Down Dog ).
- Once you're in Downward Facing Dog, either step one foot at a time or hop to the front of your mat. Inhale with a flat back, and gaze slightly forward.
- As you exhale, engage your abs and fold forward with a straight back. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and extend the crown of the head toward the floor to create a long spine. Shift your weight forward onto your toes, straightening the legs as much as possible. Place your hands on the ground, fingertips lining up with the toes.
- Hold here for five breaths.
The raised arms in Chair help build up strength in your back while creating space in between your shoulder blades:
- From Standing Forward Bend , come back to standing.
- Once you're ready, bend your knees and lower your hips as you raise your arms overhead.
- Focus on sitting back onto your heels. Tuck your tailbone in and engage your abs, keeping your spine straight. Relax the shoulders as you gaze up toward the ceiling. Stay like this for five breaths.
The twisted arms in Eagle may look a little intimidating, but this pretzel-looking pose is some of your best defense against tight, stressed shoulders:
- From Chair , stand up tall for a few moments in Mountain Pose .
- Shift weight onto your right foot, and lift your left knee up toward your chest. Cross your left knee in front of your right knee, and bend both knees slightly, trying to wrap your right toes around the back of your left calf.
- Cross your right elbow over your left elbow. Work on bringing your right fingertips toward the base of your left palm, and then lift your elbows straight up toward the ceiling.
- Stay here for five breaths, release, and then do the pose on the other side.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend C
Once you're all good and warmed up from the sequence, your shoulders will be get final, intense stretch in Wide-Legged Forward Bend C:
- From Eagle , move through a vinyasa (Four-Limbed Staff  to Up Dog  to Down Dog ).
- From Down Dog, either hop or step your feet forward to the top of your mat.
- Stand with your feet three to four feet apart, flaring your heels slightly wider than your toes.
- Bring your arms behind your back, clasping your fingers, and press the heels of your palms together in a fist.
- Fold forward, hinging at your hips, drawing the crown of your head and your hands toward the floor. Relax your toes, and try to shift the weight of your hips forward so they're in line with your feet.
- Stay here for five deep breaths. Then press into your feet, engage your quads, and inhale as you stand up.