CROW POSE TUTORIAL: FIND FULLNESS TO FIND STABILITY
Finding fullness in our yoga practice usually starts with our connection to breath. It’s not uncommon to take our time at the beginning of class to ground ourselves in the breath first. Finding fullness means creating space and expansion in the body and mind. In this tutorial, we find this fullness first in the breath and then in action in the shoulders, more specifically with the shoulder blades (scapulae), called protraction, while setting up for Bakasana (Crow Pose).
It’s through movement of the scapulae that we begin to understand what is available to us, not only in Bakasana, but in so many other yoga postures, including more advanced arm balances and, more importantly, in everyday functional movement.
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THE ANATOMY OF CROW POSE
The scapula is a sturdy bone that is flat in shape. “Flat bones provide protection and a place for broad muscles to attach.” (Long, Raymond A. MD, FRSC, The Key Muscles of Yoga, Bandha Yoga Publications LLC, 2006, pg. 11)
This is where we find our rotator cuff muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor). The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for stabilizing the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) within the shoulder (glenohumeral joint).
The shoulder, like the hip, is a ball-and-socket joint allowing for a great deal of range of motion. It allows for an even greater range of motion than the hip because of the upper arm bone’s shallow placement in the shoulder joint. This extra range of motion comes with a price — it leaves our shoulders vulnerable, with limited stability. That doesn’t mean “game over.” With awareness of this area and activation of the stability within other parts of the body, we can create a more balanced relationship between mobility and stability in the shoulder.
The scapula, on the other hand, is stabilized by the muscles of the serratus anterior and the rhomboids.
There are 4 main movements of the scapula:
- Retraction — through the actions of trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi muscles
- Protraction — through the actions of serratus anterior, pectoralis major, and pectoralis minor muscles
- Elevation — through the trapezius, levator scapulae, and rhomboid muscles
- Depression — through the force of gravity and actions of the latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, pectoralis major and minor, and trapezius muscles
Cowan PT, Mudreac A, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Back, Scapula. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531475/
(There are other movements of the scapula, but in this tutorial, we focus on protraction.)
CROW POSE ACTIONS
As Matt is setting up Bakasana, we see how important it is to find this fullness when we go into protraction of the scapulae. This fullness extends beyond the shoulders, all the way into the arms and even into the fingers. Here, our breath body meets the actions of our physical body through the fullness and expansion at the back and into our fingers, strengthening not only the posture but the serratus anterior muscles and the shoulder girdle.
With increased stability and strength, we actually find a lightness that Matt talks about and demonstrates so that we can find the elevation required to sustain Crow Pose.
- Increase strength and flexibility
- Decrease risk of injury
- Release shoulder tension
- Learn anatomy and biomechanics
- Access a wider range of postures
- Stabilize the rotator cuff muscles
- Learn binds, heart openers, and arm balances
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