Some Yoga action for the shoulder – PART 1

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Woman practicing yoga, doing asana paired with Cow Pose on the inhale, Cat, Marjaryasana pose, working out

BY: TRISHA CURLING

This is a common area for injury, weakness, and/or instability. There are also some common areas in the shoulder and surrounding muscle tissue that may be tight, weak and/or irritated which are often contributors to shoulder injury and/or pain and discomfort.

If we look at the anatomy of the shoulder, then we may be able to understand with more insight as to why this area is so vulnerable to injury. There are four joints in the shoulder. The most commonly referred to joint when discussing the shoulder is the Glenohumeral joint. It’s a synovial joint, meaning it has a joint capsule and secretes synovial fluid. Movement is important in keeping this area lubricated for optimal function. It is also a Ball and Socket Joint. If you imagine a golf ball sitting on a tee then this is what is meant by “Ball and Socket”.  With that visual in mind, we can really see it’s vulnerability. We must find ways to maintain stability in this area to reduce the risk of injury.

There are two main components of active stability in the shoulder girdle. These components are:

  1. Stabilizing the humeral head (upper arm bone)
  2. Stabilizing the scapula (shoulder blade)

In order to stabilize the humeral head, we must look at the rotator cuff muscles and in order to stabilize the scapula, we must work with the rhomboids and serratus anterior.

One way to start building some stability in these areas is to go through a series of progression of movements. This way you are taking a gradual approach rather than jumping quickly into strength moves that could be encouraging the dysfunction.

Here is an early progression to start with:

Seated with arms out

Take a cross legged position on the floor, take your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing out (as if pushing against a wall). Now, keeping the arms straight, and maintaining an upright position of the spine, breathe out while pushing the “wall” away even more by rounding only through your upper back and keeping the length in your arms. You may feel a deep stretch and a “separation” of the shoulder blades this is good. When you inhale, draw your shoulder blades closer together and feel like you are opening your chest. Continue to do this for maybe 6-8 breath cycles, take a 60-90 second break (depending on how intense it might feel for you) and then repeat maybe three or four times.

Taking this action will not only begin to wake up the muscles that support stability, but these movements will also encourage the gliding motion of the shoulder blade which will also encourage mobility. In order to restore function in this area, we must consider stretching, strengthening, and releasing (releasing tension with myofascial release).  Yoga is an excellent “tool” that can get you on this path, but it is also important to work with either physiotherapists, chiropractors, and/or nutritionists (among other health care professionals in order for you to get to the root of the issue and then take the appropriate action. Look out for my article in the next edition for more progressions and tips on how to take some action for your shoulders!

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