Strengthen Your “Shelf” For Mayurasana

Strengthen Your “Shelf” for Mayurasana

How to Prepare for This Unique Arm Balance

DELTOIDS

STRENGTHEN YOUR “SHELF” FOR MAYURASANA

Let’s note that muscle groups do not work in isolation: The activation of accessory muscles, although not necessarily the focal point, are an integral part of the execution of a posture. In Mayurasana, the anterior deltoids and rotator cuff muscles may not be part of your first thoughts regarding how to execute this posture, but without considering the role they play, we simply will not be able to create the “shelf” required to create the balance we need in this posture. There is obvious core activation, not to mention strength and activation in the glutes and hamstrings, but the shelf Matt refers to in this class is the ability to hug the elbows in as tightly as possible so as to create an anchor for the pose. The anterior deltoids and rotator cuff muscles offer support, stability, and strength in Mayurasana.

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    BLOCK SQUEEZE DRILL

    In terms of teaching Mayurasana, Matt notes that it’s not an easy pose to sequence towards. Not many other postures mimic the mandatory actions, but there are certainly creative movements and drills we can incorporate into our practice in order to cultivate the inescapable strength required for Mayurasana. Of course, Matt demonstrates the actions we can take to strengthen the appropriate muscle groups. Included in this preparation, in particular for the shelf in Mayurasana, are the biceps, pectoralis muscles, anterior deltoids, and rotator cuff.

    Today’s video starts off with a “block squeeze” drill. The block is squeezed between the forearms with bent elbows, while the arms are externally rotated. Our palms are facing forward, and the upper back is rounded while we “sit” in a Chair Pose position. The pectoralis muscles are engaged, but it’s the external rotation that helps us target the rotator cuff muscles.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    STRENGTHEN YOUR “SHELF” FOR MAYURASANA: HOW TO PREPARE FOR THIS UNIQUE ARM BALANCE

    MAYURASANA AT THE WALL AND ON YOUR BACK

    Mayurasana at the Wall

    Here, we can practice mimicking what we did in the block drill—squeezing our elbows in towards each other. In addition, the feeling of “trying to pull the wall up” turns on the pectoralis major, the anterior deltoids, and the biceps. We can’t lift our legs here, but we can practice the sensation of pulling our feet back to activate the glutes and hamstrings.

    Mayurasana on Your Back

    By pressing our feet into the ground in this variation, we can get more feedback and activation of the glutes and hamstrings. In the upper body, we practice the shape by rounding the back and placing our arms as if to set up the shelf on top of the rib cage. 

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    MAYURASANA “MASTERY”

    In the full class, Matt reminds us that creating the shelf with our arms doesn’t mean that we are resting on top of them. What we’re actually doing is setting up a strong base, our negotiating point for balance. To achieve the final expression of the posture, it’s the angle of the bend at the elbows, the grip of the ground with the fingers, and the strength in the shoulders and upper body that allow us to shift and find the sweet spot that supports the lift of the legs. In today’s video, you’ll see how Matt shifts his weight back and forth before he locks in to the next step, where he finds authentic balance and uses the strength of the core, glutes, and hamstrings to lift his legs. The trust in the foundation that’s been created allows for this masterful execution of Mayurasana.

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    KEY ACTIONS IN THIS ARM BALANCE

    Here are the 2 key actions Matt outlines for Mayurasana (we’ll find them in most arm balance postures):

    1. Bending the elbows at an open angle (helps to stop us from falling)
    2. Intentionally leaning forward while trying to stop at the same time

    For Mayurasana, more than building strength in the shoulders, biceps, core, glutes, and hamstrings, it’s about how to be very intentional in the drills we implement in our yoga practice. The only way to become masterful is to be informed and guided through drills like these and, of course, to practice the posture itself.

    In Matt’s upcoming 3-part series, Shoulder Mastery, he’ll delve into more about shoulder strength for arm balances, along with a deeper understanding of the shoulders when it comes to inversions, binds, and even releasing the neck.

    Strength without action offers no direction. Register for the workshop series today!

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Anatomy of Arm Balances

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    Bound Side Angle

    Bound Side Angle

    2 Variations To Open Up Your Shoulders

    expand

    BOUND SIDE ANGLE

    You might either approach Bound Side Angle with excitement or with a sense of fear. If you adopt a certain perspective, it’s possible for the word “bound” to evoke a sense of freedom in the context of yoga. In postures like Bound Side Angle, openness is required not just in the shoulders but also in the hips. While on one hand, yes, the posture can seem limiting and closed (especially if there are constrictions due to pain or injury); on the other hand, through the use of props and specific articulations, there are ways to access increased shoulder mobility. In today’s video, Matt offers very explicit actions you can take to acquire more flexibility and strength. What you’ll also find is that the connection you gain to the rest of your body ultimately creates a positive influence on your ability to find more opening.

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    MUCH MORE THAN YOUR SHOULDERS

    It’s easy to prioritize the amount of mobility required in your shoulders for this posture, which is necessary, but there is more that requires your attention. Once you learn about what Chromatic Yoga is all about, you come into a more expansive awareness of your whole self—body and mind. Within your practice, this awareness is expressed as an informed exploration. This means that you begin to learn that certain movements or actions will alter your access and experience in a posture. 

    Let’s examine what’s involved with the hips. There is a generous amount of abduction required, demanding a high degree of flexibility and strength in the adductor muscles. The wider the stance, the “easier” it will be to access the bind. In the video and discussion below, you’ll see how this supports your ability to find more shoulder mobility.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    BOUND SIDE ANGLE: 2 VARIATIONS TO OPEN UP YOUR SHOULDERS

    BOUND SIDE ANGLE TECHNIQUES WITH A BLOCK

    When setting up Bound Side Angle, some of the first cues Matt offers in the video are “hips back, groins back.” Emphasis on the positioning of your hips is addressed quite early. Taking these actions can immediately make way for increased space for you to drop your torso as low as possible. If the attempt to lower your upper body to a greater degree feels too ambitious, Matt suggests placing a block underneath your front foot. You can see how this elevation brings your inner knee closer to the back of your shoulder, which can allow more freedom for your arm to go underneath your inner thigh. 

    That being said, it is also the articulation of the shoulder joint that impacts your ability to wrap around for the bind. More protraction of the scapulae and internal rotation of the shoulders will assist you in getting your arm behind you.  

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    BOUND SIDE ANGLE WITH A STRAP

    In both variations, once you have the security of the clasp, of your hands or with a strap, you can begin to lift. There are still actions that need to take place before you invite in the shoulder articulations for expansion. Creating a posterior tilt in your pelvis will set off the action of pulling your shoulders back, therefore lifting the chest up.

    Practicing all of this with a strap may at first appear to be less arduous than without one. Matt notes that it may actually be more challenging in the sense that it provides increased range of motion in the shoulders. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the muscle activations that will create an underpinning of strength to support the flexibility. Activating muscles like the rear deltoids and the erector spinae (for spinal support), along with the glutes and adductors, will substantially bolster the integrity of this posture.

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    THE ENTIRE SCOPE

    As the saying goes, “You can throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks,” or in terms of yoga, you can arm yourself with education to gain more distinct results. The beauty of Chromatic yoga is that Matt articulates the alignment and biomechanics of each posture with absolute precision. This allows you to make informed choices regarding your practice: At any given time, you’ll have multiple opportunities to select which variations and modifications are appropriate for you. Through practice and repetition, you’ll experience a transformation within your physical body. What you’ll also learn is how to adopt and integrate the philosophical teachings of yoga into multiple areas of your life. Bound Side Angle pose may be a physical posture, but when you are open to the entire scope of what’s available to you within it, your potential is limitless.

    Register for Matt’s next immersion, Chromatic Yoga, for a transformative experience.

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Shoulder Revelation Immersion

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    Crow Pose On Blocks

    Crow Pose on Blocks

    Take Your Shoulder Stability to New Heights

    STABILITY

    CROW POSE 

    It’s not unusual to have a healthy amount of fear and hesitation when it comes to finding balance in crow pose: Will I fall? Am I strong enough? Will I hurt myself? One of the most amazing things about an asana practice, however, is how we learn so much about our bodies. We learn through exploration. When you have a teacher like Matt, he not only provides inspiration to explore, but through his extensive knowledge of the body, he offers a myriad of specific actions for you to experiment with that allow you to move towards a desired result. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates the dual action for you to take for improved shoulder stability in Crow Pose. The use of yoga blocks in this variation of the pose serves as an excellent support to take your shoulder stability to new heights.

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    HYPERMOBILE VS. HYPOMOBILE

    Whether you are hypermobile or hypomobile, working on stability in your yoga practice is a must. What’s the difference between the two?  “Joint hypermobility is a clinical condition in which the joints move beyond the expected physiological range of motion.” When this is the case, understanding your body and knowing your individual “end range” can help you know when to pull back in order to minimize instability and possible injury. On the other hand, hypomobility means that there is a decrease and a significant limitation in the range of motion that is actually possible within a specific joint. When it comes to the shoulders, both states are common, and both have the potential to result in pain. It may seem counterintuitive to work on stability when hypomobile, because you may associate the toughness or rigidity with stability. Stability is just part of the equation when developing healthy muscle tissue, but it is an important part of the equation.  

    Atici A, Aktas I, Akpinar P, Ozkan FU. The relationship between joint hypermobility and subacromial impingement syndrome and adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder. North Clin Istanb. 2018 Sep;5(3):232-237. doi: 10.14744/nci.2017.35119. PMID: 30688930; PMCID: PMC6323568.

    WATCH THE VIDEO: CROW POSE ON BLOCKS

    SHOULDER STABILITY

    An essential part of shoulder stability happens when the muscles around the glenohumeral joint (rotator cuff muscles) have the ability to contract and help the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) stay centered and secure in the joint. Having the ability to contract means that these muscles actually have less rigidity; it means that there is a suppleness to the tissues which allows them to contract, expand, move, and glide as they should. An arm balance like Crow Pose requires a sizable amount of shoulder stability.

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    THE 2 MAIN ACTIONS

    The actions Matt demonstrates in the video for shoulder stability in Crow Pose are protraction and external rotation. He explains that in scapular protraction, the tendency will be to internally rotate the humerus; however, if you can externally rotate the arm bones while in protraction, it will create a vast amount of shoulder stability in your arm balances. There’s actually a counteraction taking place. The goal is to apply these two actions simultaneously. Matt teaches us that internal rotation is fine—it’s actually something we want—but in the context of this arm balance, if you counteract the protraction with external rotation, there will be a tremendous amount of muscle activation that surrounds the joints. This in turn translates into better stability and better balance.

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    IMPLEMENT THESE KEY ACTIONS FOR CROW POSE ON BLOCKS

    Executing Crow Pose on blocks is not as simple as only doing the 2 actions (protraction and external rotation) for the shoulders, but bringing your focus and attention here might just be what is missing from actually realizing your full potential in the posture.

    Here are the steps:

    1. Stack 2 blocks horizontally on their first height
    2. Place your hands wide on the ground, just ahead of the blocks
    3. Step onto the blocks 
    4. Lower your hips down towards your heels
    5. Take your knees wide and out to the sides (*The height of the blocks allow you to have a better handle on allowing your shins the space to rest on the upper arms for better support)
    6. Squeeze legs into the chest
    7. Get your fingers active (grip the ground)
    8. Lean forward into fingers
    9. Rotate elbows in (external rotation of the humerus)
    10.  Squeeze knees in towards your midline (activating the adductor muscles)
    11. Push the floor away to protract the scapulae more (round your back more)

    TAKEAWAYS

    What you end up finding out about your body is whether or not your proprioception is accurate: Is your physical body able to respond to the cues so as to follow through with these actions? Do you require more strength? This helps you to map out your next steps and course of action.

    A good step in the right direction is to sign up for Matt’s Shoulder Mobility immersion. In this immersion, you’ll learn more about how to strengthen key muscles of the shoulders. Matt also be teaches techniques that assist in increasing both active and passive range of motion.

    See you on the mat!

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Video Extracted From: Shoulder Revelation Immersion

    UPCOMING TEACHER TRAININGS

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