Kriya - Series for the Upper Back and Shoulders

(Yoga for Skiers & Runners, Nirvair Singh Khalsa, out-of-print, copyright 1994)

Stand with the Feet Shoulder Width Apart. Have the palms together overhead with the thumbs crossed. Stretch up and back with a deep inhale. Exhale as you come forward allowing the hands to separate. Bring the palms flat to the ground if possible. Knees remain a little bent. Continue for 3 minutes.

Standing in the Same Position. Allow the upper body to hang over the waist. Keep the knees a little bent allowing the neck and shoulders to relax for 90 seconds.

Cow/Cat. Have the hands on the ground shoulder width apart, knees directly down from the hips, heels touching. Inhale as you tilt the pelvis forward, arching the lower back slightly downward. The head moves last. Arch the head back. Exhale as you arch the back up, tilting the pelvis the opposite way. Push up through the shoulders, chin on the chest. Alternate between cow and cat for 3 minutes. Keep the eyes closed and firmly fixed at the brow point.

Plow Pose. Come sitting down, lie flat on your back with the arms by the sides, palms down. Inhale and raise the legs up and over the body so that the toes touch the ground behind your head, legs straight. Ideally, the back is straight, perpendicular to the ground. If your lower back is particularly tight or weak, cut the amount of time you stay in the position by at least half. Hold the position with long, slow, deep breathing for 2 minutes. It might be easier if you either point the hands toward the toes OR drop the knees down toward the ears OR spread the legs. WARNING: If you have neck problems, skip this exercise. NOTE: Half Plow is an acceptable variation of Full Plow. In Half Plow you support the back with both hands, the feet and legs are held parallel over the body. Half Plow affords you the same benefits as Full Plow.

Shoulder Stand. Starting from Plow position, raise the legs up straight into shoulder stand. Legs are together. Hands support the back, chin is on the chest. Long, slow, deep breathing for 3 minutes. Come out of this posture by returning to Plow and then slowly lowering yourself down. If your lower back is particularly tight or weak, cut the amount of time you stay in the position by at least half. Half Shoulder Stand is an acceptable variation of Full Shoulder Stand. The back is at a 45-degree angle and the hands support the hips. Legs can be up straight or held at a 45-degree angle over the head. In either position, make sure the elbows are not too far apart. Make sure that your weight is on the shoulders and not the neck. WARNING: If you have neck problems, skip this exercise.

Boat Pose. Roll over on the stomach. Extend the arms on the ground with the hands interlaced in a basket. Legs are together and straight. Lift the head, chest and arms off the ground as high as possible keeping the legs together. Ideally, only the navel sits on the ground. Breath of Fire for 60 seconds. TIP: Draw the backs of the upper thighs together. Lengthen out. Imagine someone pulling you from the toes, elongating your lower back.

Baby Pose Stretch. Sit on the heels. Have the palms on the ground in front of the knees, shoulder width apart. Inhale the elbows straight and lift the chest and head up and back. Exhale, the forearms flat on the ground. Bring the forehead to the ground. Continue this motion for 2 minutes with long, slow, deep breaths.

Yoga Mudra. Remain on your heels with the forehead on the ground. Interlace the hands into a basket at the small of the back with the palms down. Raise the hands up high and hold this position with Breath of Fire for 90 seconds.

Upper Spine Flex. Sit comfortably in Easy Pose. Grasp the knees with the hands and mostly straighten the elbows. Inhale as you flex the thoracic spine forward through your arms, exhale as you flex the thoracic spine back. There is little to no pelvic movement with this upper spine flex. The shoulders remain down and relaxed. Continue with half breaths for 90 seconds.

Easy Pose. Sit comfortably with a straight spine. Have the palms together at the Heart Center with the base of the thumbs pressed against the sternum. Lift the elbows up high. Shoulders remain back and down. Concentrate at the heart center with the eyes focused at the middle of the brow. Long, slow, deep breathing for 90 seconds.

Spine Twists. Sit comfortably in Easy Pose. Interlace the hands in a basket behind the neck under any hair. Keep the chest high as you inhale and twist the torso left. Exhale and twist the torso right. Continue this motion smoothly without pause in either position for 90 seconds using half breaths.

Chest Lift. Remain sitting comfortably in Easy Pose. Interlace the hands in a basket behind the head. Lift the chest high and press the elbows back. Hold this position for 90 seconds with Breath of Fire.

Shoulder Shrugs. Remain comfortably seated in Easy Pose. Gently grasp the knees with the hands. Inhale as you shrug the shoulders up to the ears. Exhale as you drop the shoulders down. Continue this motion for 60 seconds at a rapid pace.

Shoulder Rolls. Remain comfortably seated in Easy Pose. Keeping the hands on the knees, roll the shoulders together in big, slow, smooth circles. Continue for 90 seconds with relaxed breath.

Head Roll. Bring the left ear to the left shoulder, roll the head back, bring the right ear to the right shoulder, roll the head forward and continue for 3 times. Then reverse directions.

Deep Relaxation. Corpse Pose for 5-15 minutes. Totally and completely relax on the back with the arms by the sides, palms gently facing upwards, feet approximately hip-width apart.

Comments: This series will help remove tension from the upper back and shoulders.

--Cow and Cat: Can “make your eyes glitter with a special light.” It’s also been said by Yogi Bhajan that Cow and Cat virtually polishes all your vertebrae! (Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, p. 250).

--Plow: Gets rid of surplus fat, corrects your liver and spleen, strengthens your heart. Muscles of thighs, pelvic region and abdomen are invigorated. Prevents loss of appetite, diabetes and constipation. Good for thyroid and parathyroid glands (in your throat). (Kundalini Postures & Poetry, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, p. 85).

--Shoulder Stand: Excellent for circulation, rests your blood vessels and arteries from the effects of gravity, resists the weathering of skin and graying of hair, removes constipation, indigestion and anemia. (Kundalini Postures & Poetry, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, p. 61).

--Boat Pose: “Your lungs will love you, stomach flab will flee, digestion improve, constipation relieved, body so light and agile you’ll think you can float, when you lift yourself into this Boat. Raise your arms and legs slowly, as high as you can, Increase blood circulation, whether woman or man.” (Kundalini Postures & Poetry, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, p. 77)

--Yoga Mudra: Works on enlarged liver or spleen. Excellent preparation for meditation as it will help you to focus. Chanting in this position helps to capture the mind. (Kundalini Postures & Poetry, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, p. 141 and Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, p. 249).

© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan - All Rights Reserved

All teachings, yoga sets, techniques, kriyas and meditations courtesy of The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan. Reprinted with permission. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of these Teachings may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, except as may be expressly permitted in writing by the The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan. To request permission, please write to KRI at PO Box 1819, Santa Cruz, NM 87567 or see


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