Clam Pose in Five Easy Steps

Clam Pose is a wonderful upper body twist that also stretches that hard-to-reach area behind the shoulder blades.  It’s a perennial favorite, and probably the most frequently requested pose in my drop-in yoga classes. (Well, next to Pigeon Pose, that is.)  But Clam Pose doesn’t appear in yoga books, and web searches for “Clam Pose” come up with something entirely different. Where did this wonderful movement come from, anyway?

I learned this two-pose yoga flow when I studied prenatal yoga with Margaret Pierce at The Pierce Program in Atlanta.  Margaret uses this slow, gentle, upper body twist to help her prenatal students link movement and breathing in a uniquely meditative way.  But rest assured, non-prenatal students enjoy Clam Pose as much as their expecting counterparts.  Thank you, Margaret, for teaching me this lovely movement.

Clam Pose in Five Easy Steps, with Photos Below!

  1. Rest on your right side, with your knees bent at approximately a 90 degree angle.  Place a thick pillow or folded blanket under your head, so that your neck and shoulders can relax in a neutral position.  Reach your arms straight out from your torso and place your palms on top of each other.
  2. As you inhale, reach your top (left) hand past your bottom fingers, gently stretching the area behind your left shoulder blade
  3. As you Exhale, open the “clam shell” by reaching your left arm up toward the ceiling and over to the floor on the left side of your body.  Turn your head so that your gaze follows the movement of your fingers. Mid-way through this movement, your fingers should be pointing up toward the ceiling. When you finish the movement, your left hand will rest on the floor on the left side of your body, and your head will be turned toward the left.
  4. Remain in this open position and inhale, relaxing your left shoulder down toward the floor and stretching the muscles along the front of your left shoulder.
  5. As you exhale, close the clam shell and return to the starting position, touching your palms together again.

Repeat the above flow several times, then stay for a few breaths in position 4 (open clam), if desired.  Then roll to your left side and repeat steps 1 – 5 with your right arm.

The photos below show a student in all three positions of Clam Pose.

I hope you enjoy integrating this moving meditation into your personal practice. If you’d like me to highlight other Viniyoga poses in this blog, please e-mail me at



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4 thoughts on “Clam Pose in Five Easy Steps

  1. John Marsh

    Thanks for this, Tracy. I love the way it opens my chest. One question: when I’m in the open position, I have the option of separating my knees to get my shoulder farther down. I assume it’s best to keep the knees together. Is that right? Again, thanks for this post, and for the blog.

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Hi John! Glad you liked the article! The knee position is actually a trade-off, in this pose as in simple twist. If you force the knees to be stacked, you may limit the extent of the twist you can achieve. And likewise if you let the knees move too far apart, you do the same. So as in all things Viniyoga, focus on how the posture FEELS more so than some aribtrary rule on where the knees or shoulders should be. At what knee and shoulder position do you feel the most stretching in the front of the shoulder and best twist in your upper spine? That’s the one you should choose. Your yoga teacher should be able to help you figure it out if you’re not sure….


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