Snap Crackle Pop Shoulder During Yoga Class

Since I began practicing yoga I’ve had an issue with my left shoulder, (a snap crackle pop shoulder) for what has seemed like the entire time. It makes a cracking noise as I straighten it to enter downward facing dog on my yoga mat.

I have Dr. Google’d the heck out of this problem and I’m still coming up short. I’ve found a variety of forums and videos explaining proper form in this move, but nothing specific to a popping or cracking shoulder.

Snap Crackle Pop Shoulder

Snap Crackle Pop Shoulder

Shoulder Making Noise

The only “prevention” I have found is that if I enter downward facing dog much slower the popping sometimes does not happen. I have tried so hard to do this, but it’s often challenging, especially in the fast-paced vinyasa style classes I enjoy most.

Further, over the years I’ve found a number of websites that discuss joint popping noises, most of which say that a joint cracking noise is fine, so long as there is no pain. I’m not in any pain when this happens, but the constant cracking started to cause me a bit of anxiety.

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I didn’t want to wake up in 20 years and not be able to do yoga because I tore my body up during my youth. All I hear older folk complain about is their aches and pains. That sure sounds like a lot to look forward too, huh?

Shoulder replacements and torn rotator cuffs are real. I’d like to keep the parts I was born with — and keep them healthy. This yoga shoulder pain became noticeable for me in 2012.

Shoulder Bones and Muscles

Snap Crackle Pop Shoulder

Shoulder and Yoga

I am also one of many who read the The New York Times magazine article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” I also listened to the report “The Risks and Rewards of Practicing Yoga” on NPR featuring the same author, William Broad.

And to be honest, these report made me look at my yoga practice in a different light.

I was at a crossroads. I had been practicing yoga on my yoga mat two to three times a week now pretty much since the start of the year, when this happened. Maybe that’s a bit much. And I was starting to feel uncomfortable with all this shoulder popping.



It made me me cringe every time I head it.

Cracking Shoulder Yoga

Snap Crackle Pop Shoulder

In Summary

As much as I wanted to continue my practice, I decided to step back a bit, and take a few days off from yoga. I also considered starting up some shoulder exercises again and see if that helps the area at all.

This also gave me an excuse to run more again. The human body is both amazing and frustrating at the same time.

Have you had this problem while doing yoga?

14 thoughts on “Snap Crackle Pop Shoulder During Yoga Class”

  1. I read your story with the same “hey that sounds like me” thoughts.

    I have started a “slow/part-time” yoga teacher training program and for past couple months, I’ve really ramped up my home practice in terms of both time and intensity. I have been practicing about 5-6 days a week, for an average of 40 minutes. While I used to certainly pop and snap on occasion (hips, knees, etc), in the past couple weeks my shoulders, especially my right shoulder, has been popping like mad. I don’t notice these pops during asana practice, but just lifting my arm while working at my desk, I can get a loud (and fairly painless, although psychologically disturbing) pop. I too am worried that the yoga has done/is doing something that my body won’t be able to maintain for decades. I’m discussing it with my teachers (who teach Iyengar style yoga) and also backing off on my practice in terms of the numbers of down dogs, planks, chaturangas and side plank I do. Thanks for sharing your story, I will continue searching for answers.

    • Kathy, after I wrote that post I was able to follow up with a very established local yoga teacher. She asked if the popping caused any pain and it does not. She said it could be a sign my body isn’t warmed up enough. She thought I should not worry about it so long as it’s not causing any pain. I have found ways to warm up better and the popping is less frequent now. However I still have odd pops in my hips, notably when I get out of bed each morning. Again, no pain. I’m going to chalk it up to just how my body is!

  2. I have a few things to say about this…first, I have the exact same should issue as you do! My left should pops all over the place especially in my first few downward dogs. I haven’t finished listening to that story from NPR, but my suggestion would be to start taking slower, more alignment based classes until your body understands what “proper alignment” is. I know you like the power classes, but you should make sure your body know how to align correctly first. If you learn that first, your body will know how to get into alignment, even in those faster classes. I could suggest a few teachers in the area who have a lot of focus on correct alignment, if you want. I think the best thing here is having a good balance and listening to your body. ANY exercise, when done wrong, can lead to injury…you’re not any more prone to doing that with yoga than you are with running or weight lifting. So, learn how to be confident that you are aligning optimally for your body, and then the popping might not be so worrisome.

  3. Per my chiro when you hear a cracking/popping noise without pain it’s just air being release. Maybe the yoga positions prior to downward dog just build up a lot of air? I do agree with the “if it hurtsdon’t do” sentiments!

  4. I heard the same NPR broadcast, and I found it to be VERY interesting. I think he has an agenda, obviously, but his research brought up some good thinking/talking points.

    My shoulders pop almost at will, and I never think much of it. I wouldn’t worry unless it is every time you get into downward dog or other specific poses. (As long as it’s pain free, of course.) I think so much of injury prevention is being very well rounded – cardio, strength and stretch. If one gets left out, it’s hard to be strong and healthy.

  5. I have a lot of snaps, crackles and pops when at yoga – and my shoulder does similar things to yours. I’m careful to regulate just as you are, even if that means slowing down/altering my flow. My teacher has dealt with a ton of shoulder injuries from too many years of bodybuilding, so I’ll see what she has to say about your situation. But one thing that always comes to mind: “if it hurts, don’t do it”.


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