Foam Roller Exercises to release tension in neck and shoulders.

I literally love rollers. They are so good for core workouts but also great for muscle and fascia release. If you don’t have one in your house you really need one.

If you sit for hours at a desk or feed and carry a baby then spend time hunched over playing on the floor and changing nappies then these exercises are going to make your shoulders sing with joy!

Pectoral Stretch

Lie on your side with your knees bent and the roller under your neck, both arms in front of you at chest height.

Pilates with Priya: Shoulder Roller Release 2

Engage your core, then as you breath out open the top arm in an arc, keeping the hips facing forward so you don’t roll back. Keep looking at your finger tips, breath in and hold the stretch. Now breath out and return to the starting position.

Pilates with Priya: Shoulder Roller Release 6

 Shoulder Drops

Lie on top of the roller, with it going down the length of your spine. Ensure your neck is supported and the whole of your spine is on it. Bring your feet to hip distance apart and your pelvis into neutral. Now open your shoulder over the roller, think about hugging it with your shoulder blades.

Pilates with Priya: Shoulder Roller Release 3


Bring your arms up so your finger tips are towards the ceiling, as you breath out stretch up to the ceiling, release the shoulder blades back down to the roller, keeping your elbows straight. Think about releasing tension and dropping the shoulders back down with energy.

Pilates with Priya: Shoulder Roller Release 4

Chicken Wings

Stay lying on the roller with the pelvis in neutral and the shoulder blades hugging the roller. Keeping the core switched on, bring the arms up with finger tips towards the ceiling. As you breath out slide the elbows down towards the floor, feeling the shoulder blades being squeezed together. Breath in to bring the arms back up and repeat.

Pilates with Priya: Shoulder Roller Release 1

Double Arm Floats

Lying on the roller with the spine in neutral and the core engaged – bring the arms up to the ceiling once more. As you breath out take the arms towards your head, but not over your head. You want to bring your elbows to your ears, but not to go further than this or your shoulders will come out of the correct position. Keep your ribcage heavy and your lower back in neutral. Breath in to hold and breath out to return the arms to the starting position. Keep your focus on you shoulders and ribcage.

Pilates with Priya: Shoulder Roller Release 5

Stabilise those Shoulders

Often in classes I come across people with tight shoulders, shoulder pain or can just see shoulders rising up towards people’s ears. It’s amazing how easy it is to start tensing in the shoulder region, I should know as I do it myself if I am not conscious enough. So I am often heard saying phrases like “Relax your shoulder” or “Draw those shoulder blades down in your back”. In actual fact the correct terminology is to “stabilise your scapulae”. Your Scapulae are the wing-like bones on your upper back, commonly called your shoulder blades. Stabilizing your scapulae is as important as contracting your abs during every exercise. This will help you avoid strain through your neck and upper shoulders.

When our scapula ride up or wing out to the sides, the shoulder area is less stable. Similarly, if you draw/squeeze the scapula together on the back this too is a less stable position than when the scapula are flat on the back with the shoulders drawn down in our favoured neutral position.


To find this shoulder position think about dropping the shoulders away from the ears and allowing the shoulder blades to slide down in your back. I like to think about them being down down towards the back pockets of your jeans. In fact this analogy has really help one of my ladies who suffered very badly from hunched shoulders, so hunches that she used to walk looking down at the floor. After learning where her scapulae should be  her whole posture has changed! Amazing.

It can be easy to start with the shoulder in this stable position but harder to keep them there when doing mat based Pilates. If you know you have a tendency to lose this position and tense up, then keep bringing your attention back to your shoulders. Have you tensed up? Think about not doing the move with your shoulders and neck but switching on your core more. It may also be that you need to decrease your range of motion in order to get the correct technique established first.