Yoga Therapy Series #2 Robust Shoulders
Your shoulder is a complicated joint! Think about every way it can move as your reach your hand about. To control all this movement, the shoulder complex requires considerable dynamic stability. Muscles anchored to your spine, ribs, skull and sternum suspend your shoulder blade and collar bone in space and control their movement. From there the four muscles of the rotator cuff emerge from the shoulder blade and insert into your humerus, keeping it centered in its socket as your deltoid moves your arm about. Its pretty complicated, even for physiotherapists.
That said, with the proper focus, yoga makes shoulder care simple. Think of how many yoga postures involve engaging your shoulders and holding them in good alignment, helping all these muscles to fire appropriately. Many other postures help to improve mobility. Importantly, we can activate and strengthen a major player in the prevention and rehabilitation of shoulder injuries: the serratus anterior. Don’t even think about trying a headstand without having good strength and control of this muscle.
So, how do we make sure we are activating serratus? Throughout your practice, especially when weight bearing through your arms, focus on keeping your shoulders externally rotated, like you are about to give a big bear hug. How? If your arms are overhead, think about turning your triceps to face the same direction as your face and chest. When your arms at chest height, try turning your biceps up to face the crown of your head. Check out the demonstration at the beginning of the video. Suddenly, that 2-minute plank becomes a 30 second plank. Downward dog becomes less of a hangout and more of a strength builder.
This video shows a simple beginner sequence to start to promote shoulder strength and stability. Start from child’s pose:
- Downward dog
- Downward dog to plank x3-5
- High Plank
- Side plank (option for knee down)
Keep all movements pain free and don’t forget to breathe.
Some tips: Again, try to think about the external rotation throughout each posture. During high plank, try to push your torso as far from the floor as possible. In dolphin, imagine you are trying to squeeze your elbows together. Keep all movements pain free and don’t forget to breathe.
This physiotherapist/yogi is always learning, feel free to share your thoughts!
Mark Austin |PT