Thread the Needle Pose Made Simple

Thread the Needle Pose is an accessible stretch for the shoulders and upper back.

Written by:

Joanne Highland

Edited & fact checked by:

Jagpreet Kaur

Published Date:

Estimated reading time:

Thread the Needle Pose Made Simple

Key Takeaway

Thread the Needle Pose is a versatile yoga stretch that alleviates shoulder and upper back tension, improves posture, and promotes relaxation, making it an essential practice for those with sedentary lifestyles.

THREAD THE NEEDLE POSE
Alternate name:Sucirandhrasana
Difficulty level:Beginner
Pose category:Twisting
Kneeling
Muscle groups:Trapezius (upper back)
Deltoids (shoulders)
Pectorals (chest)
Latissimus dorsi (mid-back)
Rhomboids (upper back)
Teres minor (shoulders)
Teres major (shoulders)
Infraspinatus (shoulders)
Abdominals (core)
Gluteus maximus (buttocks) - when leg lifts are incorporated
Physical benefits:Increases flexibility and range of motion in the shoulders and upper back; promotes relaxation and stress relief.
Therapeutic applications:Shoulder tension, Spinal mobilization
Preparatory poses:Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Counterposes that follow well:Child's Pose (Balasana)
Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Chakras activated:Heart Chakra (Anahata Chakra)
Most helpful prop:Manduka Yoga Cork Block - Yoga Prop and Accessory, Good for Travel, Comfortable Edges, Lightweight,...
Yoga block under forehead - supports neck, maintains alignment.

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In a world where smartphones and laptops seem like natural extensions of ourselves, it’s no wonder many people find themselves a walking ball of tension. As a yoga teacher, I’ve witnessed firsthand the toll our desk-bound days and long commutes in the car take on our bodies—tight shoulders and achy backs, struggling to take a deep breath.

On those tense days when I feel my upper back rounding and chest sinking inward, Thread the Needle Pose is my go-to remedy to relieve stress. This pose truly works wonders for those of us dealing with the effects of modern, sedentary living.

If you’re typing away at a computer or scrolling on your phone, take a pause and join me in discovering the transformative benefits of this pose. It’s time to untangle the knots with this gentle twisting posture, one mindful breath at a time.

Let’s unravel the blissful magic of the Thread the Needle Pose, learn all about its benefits, and explore how this humble yet powerful stretch can offer sweet relief to our hardworking bodies.

All About the Pose

Thread the Needle Stretch is a rejuvenating spinal twist that provides relief to many people who suffer from desk-induced back pain.

You’ll encounter this satisfying stretch in many yoga sequences, from Yin Yoga to backbend-focused flows. A staple in many yoga sequences, workout cool-downs, and restorative practices, this gentle stretch can alleviate tightness without overstretching and improve range of motion and posture.

Most yoga teachers, myself included, typically refer to this pose by its common English name, Thread the Needle Pose. But for yoga enthusiasts who enjoy learning the Sanskrit names for your library of yoga poses, you can use either of these options:

  • Parsva Balasana, which translates to “Side Child’s Pose” and is the more common Sanskrit name, or,
  • Urdhva Mukha Pasasana, or “Upward Facing Rope Pose” when translated literally.

Each name describes a visual representation of the position, in how one arm threads through the space between the torso and floor or as a variation of a side-facing Child’s Pose.

Step-by-Step Guide to Thread the Needle Pose

Thread the Needle Stretch is highly effective for releasing tension from your shoulders, neck, and chest. Follow the steps below and feel your stress melt away.

  1. Begin in Table Top Pose, on your hands and knees. Align your palms underneath your shoulders and stack your hips directly over your knees.
  2. Inhale and reach your right arm up, opening your chest to the right. Keep your left palm pressing into your mat.
  3. As you exhale, pass your right arm underneath your left arm. Turn your right palm to face up.
  4. Lower your right shoulder down to the floor gently. Turn your head to the side and place your right ear on your mat.
  5. Keep your left hand flat on the floor for stability, or make a “tent” and press down through just your fingertips to twist a bit more.
  6. Notice if your hips shift as your torso twists; keep them stacked directly over your knees.
  7. As you hold the stretch, be sure you can still breathe normally. Your breath should not feel constricted while in this twisted position.
  8. To release the pose, press into your left hand to lift yourself up. Unwind from your twist, and return your right hand to your mat in Table Top Pose.
  9. Repeat Thread the Needle Pose on your other side, reaching your left arm up and threading it underneath your right.

Arm Variations

Depending on your range of motion or preference for the stretch, there are a few creative options to alter Thread the Needle Pose.

Each of these slight changes in arm position adds a little something extra to the pose. Depending on where you have tightness, you could focus on stretching the front of your shoulder with the classic pose. To release more in your upper back, try one of these options.

First, bring yourself into the pose using the steps described above, with your right arm on the floor. Then, try each of these arm variations and notice how it changes your experience in the pose.

Option 1: Slide Left Arm Forward

Rather than keeping your left palm underneath your shoulder, move your hand forward as you straighten your left arm. Reach forward with your fingertips, creating length on your left side.

Option 2: Open Left Arm to the Sky

Stretch your left arm up, opening your chest even more. Press your right arm into the floor to create resistance, allowing you to stack your shoulders vertically.

Option 3: Half-Bind

Extend your left arm towards the sky, bend your elbow, and let your left arm drape behind you. Inch your left fingertips toward the front crease of your right hip and work on deepening the twist in your torso, aiming to stack your shoulders vertically.

Remember that the sensations you feel in this asana may vary. One day, you might feel like twisting more to work on your range of motion, while on another day, you might prefer to take your time and relax into the stretch.

Modifications and Variations for Different Levels

Thread the Needle Pose is a versatile exercise that can be tailored to your preference — use it as an active stretch to open the chest and upper body, or take a restorative approach with props to induce relaxation.

Support With Props

A block or bolster can make this stretch more accessible and add a therapeutic effect. Especially in Yin or Restorative yoga sequences where you might stay in the stretch for several minutes, using props will help you maintain comfort and breathe easily. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Block: Instead of turning your head to the side, keep your neck straight and place your forehead on a yoga block.
  • Bolster: Place one or two bolsters stacked in front of you. Extend one arm forward, resting it on the bolster as you slide your other arm underneath you.
  • Blanket: Place a folded blanket under your knees.

These props can be a game-changer. It’s all about making the stretch work for you, depending on your intention in the pose. Set yourself up for success with all the props you need — lululemon or Manduka are excellent choices for high-quality yoga gear.

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lululemon’s Lift and Lengthen Yoga Block

Up for a Challenge

Thread the Needle Exercise isn’t just for relaxing! You can turn it into a strengthening exercise with some leg extensions. Here’s how:

  1. Come into the basic pose with your left arm reaching under. Keep your right palm pressing into the floor.
  2. Extend your right leg behind you, pressing into the ball of your foot.
  3. Engage your core and lift your right leg without opening your hip to the right side.
  4. Complete 5 to 10 reps. Then, bend your right leg and come out of the pose gradually, returning to Table Top Pose.
  5. Repeat the exercise on your other side.

Adding leg lifts to this stretch targets your core to help you maintain balance and stability while strengthening your legs and glutes.

Safety Precautions and Contraindications

Practicing Thread the Needle Pose requires caution, especially if you have certain health conditions. Knowing when to avoid or modify the pose for safety is important.

Contraindications of Thread the Needle Pose

Anyone experiencing the following issues should proceed with caution when doing Thread the Needle Stretch.

Thread the Needle Pose can help alleviate shoulder pain, but practice with caution to avoid overstretching.

Severe Shoulder Pain

Should you feel a sharp pang, stop right there. This stretch involves a twist and reach that might aggravate any existing injuries. If you feel severe discomfort, don’t try to push through it!

Consulting with a physiotherapist is the way to go with any suspected injury. They can assess whether you can work through the issue or need to hit pause on this move. They know about the range of motion and how not to push it over the edge.

Pregnancy Considerations

If you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy, there should be no issue. But beyond that, you will likely benefit from using some yoga props for extra support. This stretch can help ease some of the aches and pains accompanying pregnancy, but please consult your doctor about which exercises you should avoid.

Cautions When Practicing Thread The Needle Pose

Although this is typically a gentle asana, that doesn’t mean no risks are involved! Be mindful of these issues to practice safely and avoid any muscle strain.

Core Engagement

Engaging your core muscles will help keep you stable and balanced. This is an asymmetrical position; you might tense or strain a muscle if you feel wobbly.

When you set up in Table Top, press your low belly in and up, then hold the core engagement throughout your stretch.

Avoid Using Torque

If you have a lot of muscle tightness, you might be tempted to force yourself into a deeper twist by pressing your bottom arm into the floor. If you push too hard, you might end up overstretching.

Instead, move gradually using your breath and without forcing the twist.

Neck Care Tips

A stiff neck requires extra care in any movement, no matter how gentle. Don’t force it if turning your head in this position feels uncomfortable! You can rest your forehead on the floor, a yoga block, or bolster.

Tips for Mastering the Pose

Thread the Needle Stretch requires awareness of breath and movement. Proper alignment is critical, especially with hips and shoulders. Pay attention to these tips and common mistakes to help you get the most out of this asana.

Deep Breathing Enhances Stretch

Breathing deeply is a crucial part of stretching. When you inhale, imagine your torso expanding. As you exhale, think of releasing all that tightness. This rhythm can deepen your stretch without pushing too hard.

Common Mistakes in Thread the Needle Pose

Fellow yoga teachers, watch out for these common mistakes to help your students stretch safely and effectively.

  • Moving too quickly: when you rush into an asana, your alignment suffers, making it more likely to injure yourself. You’ll maintain better form and balance when you move slowly and mindfully.
  • Hip alignment: as you twist your torso, your hips may shift slightly. Press them toward your midline so they are stacked directly over your knees, keeping a square and stable base.
  • Don’t forget your shoulder blades: remember that you’re trying to create space in your upper body in addition to twisting. Draw your shoulder blades down away from your neck as you move into the twisted position.

Start Small – Practice Makes Perfect

Everyone starts from a different place, so just because you aren’t twisting as much as the person on the mat next to yours doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong! Practice means doing a little bit every day. Stick with it; over time, you’ll feel your muscle tightness melt away.

Complementary Poses and Sequences

Now that you know all the ins and outs of Thread the Needle Exercise, let’s explore how to integrate it into your yoga sequences!

Child's Pose is an asana that pairs perfectly with Thread the Needle as it stretches the back and neutralizes the spine.

Sequencing and Preparatory Poses

If you feel stiff or tight, don’t just jump into Thread the Needle Stretch! You’ll need to warm up and get your blood flowing first. Then, you can move on to other asanas focused on spinal health or full-body stretches.

Encourage Circulation Before Stretching

Start with Cat-Cow stretches. These movements warm up and mobilize your spine, helping get all the kinks out. And since they are also based in Table Top, you can flow seamlessly into Thread the Needle Pose.

Spinal Neutralization Next

After Thread the Needle Pose, transition into Child’s Pose. It’s a restful stretch that neutralizes your spine after the twisting motion. Inhale deeply, and release any remaining tension in your back as you exhale.

Spinal Mobility Focus

Adding a Cobra or Puppy Pose can further enhance spinal mobilization. These poses stretch different areas of your back. For instance, Puppy focuses on the upper spine, while Cobra targets your lower back.

Practice these poses with Thread the Needle Stretch to create a comprehensive routine for spinal health.

Full-Body Flexibility Work

Thread the Needle Stretch feels so great in your upper body, so why not spread the love around? Following up with Pigeon Pose opens your hips and stretches deep glute muscles. You’ll get a flexibility workout that hits all those tight spots from head to toe.

Benefits of Practicing Thread the Needle Pose

Thread the Needle Pose encourages muscles in the upper body to release tension, which can improve posture and increase range of motion. It’s also an exercise anyone can do to de-stress and relax mentally.

Muscles Targeted by Thread the Needle Stretch

You might consider this asana a simple stretch for your back and shoulders. Technically, the pose stretches many muscles: the trapezius, deltoids, pectorals, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, teres minor and major, and infraspinatus.

But don’t forget about the muscles working to keep you stabilized! Your supporting arm builds tone, in addition to your abdominals. If you add some leg lifts, you’ll also get some glute and leg work!

Releases Shoulder Tension

The shoulders bear a lot. They tense up after long hours at the desk or from poor sleeping positions. When you twist and slide your arm under in Thread the Needle Pose, it feels like you’re unwinding all those knots built up throughout the day or night.

On the other hand, if you’ve just finished an intense weightlifting workout, you can make sure your tired muscles recover by giving them a little TLC with this stretch.

Enhances Spinal Mobilization

Your thoracic spine helps you stand tall and maintain height. But when it gets stiff, your whole upper back rebels, rounding over and causing you to shrink. That’s where Thread the Needle Exercise comes into play — it’s not just any stretch; it’s a game-changer for your upper back.

By gently twisting your spine during this exercise, you’re helping those scrunched-up vertebrae loosen up, allowing you to move more freely with less discomfort.

Mobilizes Your Upper Back

Did you know spinal mobility strongly indicates quality of life as we age? That’s why it’s important to include stretches like this in your daily exercise. Keeping your spine mobile with daily movement will ensure you avoid becoming stiff and stooped over.

Stimulates Digestive Organs

Any spinal twisting pose is like giving a hug to your insides. You compress one side of your torso as you twist in Thread the Needle Pose. This gentle squeeze may be what they need to get things moving smoothly inside your digestive tract. It’s not only good for muscle relief but also for keeping belly troubles at bay.

Who is Thread the Needle Pose Suitable For

Anyone can benefit from making this stretch a daily habit! Whether you spend hours at a desk, driving, or in the gym, this asana is a simple way to keep yourself feeling your best.

The Physical and Mental Impact of Thread the Needle Pose

This asana is fantastic for your holistic health. Aside from the physical effects of reduced muscle tension, there are several mental benefits, too.

Promotes Relaxation Response

When you spend a few minutes in Thread the Needle Pose, you give your whole system a chance to chill and take deep breaths. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, activating your “rest and digest” mode. That’s a fancy way of saying it helps you relax big time.

It works like magic if you’re feeling jumpy or can’t sleep. Imagine turning down the volume on stress with just one simple stretch.

Eases Stress Symptoms

Ever had a headache that just won’t quit? Or maybe at night, you toss and turn instead of sleeping peacefully? This stretch might be your new best friend. While stretching, you become more aware of your breath, and your thoughts become still. Soon, you’ll notice your heart rate slow and your breath steady.

Boosts Mental Clarity

A clear head comes from a relaxed body, right? Well, this asana helps untie those knots in your muscles that can make you feel all muddled up.

By easing out all that physical tension, your brain can take a breather, too. It’s like clearing away cobwebs so you can think straight again.

Improves Posture and Pain

Slouching over phones or computers is no joke—it messes with our posture big time! But guess what? Thread the Needle Exercise has got our backs (literally). Whether it’s back pain or joint stiffness, this stretch helps iron things out.

Conclusion

Thread the Needle Pose is a fabulous asana offering numerous benefits to anyone who adds it to their daily routine. Anytime you feel tense or stressed, this asana can be your saving grace!

My favorite aspect of this asana is its versatility — you can use it in all types of yoga sequences, from restorative to strengthening flows. Regular practice can enhance flexibility, alleviate tension, improve balance, and combat mental stress. Plus, it will help keep you healthy and mobile as you age.

Embark on your journey with Thread the Needle Pose to unlock its potential in fortifying your yoga practice. Remember to heed the provided guidance for a safe and effective experience. Embrace the transformative power of this pose—start incorporating it into your routine today and observe the positive changes it brings to your life.

FAQs

How long should I hold Thread the Needle Pose?

Stay in the stretch for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. If you plan to hold the asana for over a minute, you may want to use some props for support.

Can this asana help with shoulder pain?

Yes, it can help alleviate soreness by stretching and opening the shoulders and upper back. However, consult a physiotherapist or doctor if you experience persistent discomfort.

What are the common mistakes to avoid in this asana?

Common mistakes include overstraining the neck, not using props for support, and improper alignment. Practitioners should ensure their weight is evenly distributed and avoid forcing the twist. Using a blanket or block for support can enhance the asana’s effectiveness and safety.

How does Thread the Needle Exercise complement other yoga practices?

This asana complements other yoga poses by preparing the body for deeper twists and stretches. It can be integrated into sequences focusing on mobility and stress relief. This asana is valuable to dynamic flow sessions and restorative practices.

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