Headstand and Forearm Stand

Headstand and Forearm Stand

Master This Imperative Shoulder Action

scapula elevation

HEADSTAND AND FOREARM STAND

Getting straight to the point, the imperative shoulder action in Headstand and Forearm Stand is elevation of the scapulae. This is the best way to fully participate in developing your potential in these postures. It may seem like a simple action, but it’s important to understand the broader scope of what’s involved. More than just lifting your shoulders up towards your ears, it’s the activation of muscles like the upper trapezius, serratus anterior, and the triceps, along with freedom in the neck, that help support this action. In today’s video, Matt outlines a number of drills that will assist you in finding the appropriate amount of activation and strength to achieve balance, stability, and freedom in Headstand and Forearm Stand.

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    • Strengthen rotator cuff for stability and shoulder health
    • Gain access to shoulder-focused postures
    • Debunk popular alignment
    • Skillfully guided sequence by the founder of Chromatic Yoga, Matt Giordano

    DOWNWARD DOG–DOLPHIN DRILL

    This first drill can be approached in two different ways:

    1.  The first approach to this Headstand drill starts in a shorter Downward-Facing Dog in which your body is still in a diagonal position. You then proceed to play with movement between moving your head gently down towards the ground, which requires a softening in the shoulders, and pushing the floor away with your forearms, creating more elevation of the scapulae and pushing your body back. Matt reminds you not to move back to a point where you feel pain in your shoulders as a result of greater compression in the joint. 
    2.  In the second approach, you’ll walk your feet in to become more vertical (closer to Headstand or Forearm Stand position). It’s important to note the slow lowering of your head towards the ground in order to build greater strength in the elevators of the scapulae.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    HEADSTAND AND FOREARM STAND: MASTER THIS IMPERATIVE SHOULDER ACTION

    HEADSTAND PREPARATION

    It may be simpler to understand why elevation of the scapulae is important in Forearm Stand: The goal there is to take your head completely off of the ground. Why is elevation of the scapulae also imperative in Headstand? Well, implementing this action will reduce pressure on your cervical spine, that is, in the neck.  

    If you are going forward with this exploration, then you will feel some weight in your head in the starting position (feet down). To reduce this weight, Matt advises you to take your gaze towards your belly button to get longer in the back of your neck and/or to take the opportunity to strengthen your serratus muscles, along with the trapezius, by pushing the floor away to the degree that allows you to lift your head further away from the ground. This movement may be slight or moving more towards Forearm Stand.

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    FOREARM STAND DRILLS

    Once you’ve explored some of the added layers in Headstand from the video, you can move on to explore your potential in Forearm Stand. This of course requires increased elevation of the scapulae in order to lift your head off the ground.

    This time, start with your head completely off the ground. Proceed by lifting one leg up at a time. If you’re close to a wall, like Matt is in the video, you’ll see how he demonstrates a controlled hop.

    Now, if you’re looking for a bit more, you’ll see Matt’s demonstration utilizing a chair in the video. This can be more intense, but what Matt explains is that it’s helpful to remove the balance element from the drill because you can work on strengthening and deepening the connection to the awareness of the range required in the scapulae in order to lift.

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    PROTECT YOUR NECK

    Keep in mind, the best choice to avoid injury or the aggravation of any known discomfort in your neck is to stay away from Headstand completely. However, what’s offered in the video tutorial, assuming it’s safe for you to explore, are ways to intelligently approach the practice of Headstand and Forearm Stand with a deeper understanding of how to prepare your body. The drills teach you how to build strength and mobility concurrently. You’ll learn how to strengthen muscles like the trapezius, serratus anterior, and stabilizers of the neck, but the basis for this strengthening comes from the important action of elevating your scapulae. This action is the catalyst for unlocking your potential in these inversions.

    Register today for The Shoulder Reset, a 2-hour livestream workshop on January 28th, where Matt will dive into technique, anatomy, and the biomechanics of the shoulder joint.

    See you on the mat!


    The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Shoulder Mobility Immersion

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    ONLINE ANATOMY COURSE

    • Accessible, exciting, and easy to learn
    • Anatomy and biomechanics for yoga
    • Appropriate for both teachers and students
    • Learn joint alignment vs pose alignment
    • Demystify yoga poses and transitions
    • Release aches and pains
    • Learn how to avoid common injuries
    • Caters to all levels with modifications and props
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    Inversion Drills

    Inversion Drills

    Conquer Fear Through Technique

    SIRSASANA

    INVERSION DRILLS

    Are you the type of person who avoids inversions altogether, or do you eagerly await the option in your yoga classes? 

    Matt infuses Chromatic yoga with the philosophies of ancient Tantric yoga to help you acquire a more in-depth understanding of your own thought processes, decision-making, and patterns. One of the ways you can more closely connect to the reason for either a fear (resistance) or an attachment (attraction) regarding inversions is through the conditioning (samskaras) you have about your ability to achieve inversions. This is why the Chromatic approach is always systematic—you’re encouraged to take incremental steps towards your desired actions and new patterning. Utilizing the inversion drills from today’s video is a step towards understanding your relationship with fear and learning about how technique can quiet your resistance towards them.

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    IS FEAR WORKING FOR YOU OR AGAINST YOU?

    Feling fear about inversions or even inversion drills doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. You’re not required to change your feelings about them just to work them into your asana practice. That’s not what understanding your relationship to fear means. Fear may be what protects you. You may have an injury or condition that may amplify if you don’t use your good judgment and stay away from inversions. In the full class, Matt discusses how fear is a kind of protective mechanism. It can help you to sort through whether or not the fear is valid. The thing is, it’s up to you to decide if working beyond it will create positive transformation, like confidence and strength, or if it might be more damaging. It’s quite alright to fear something and make a decision not to engage in that particular thing.

    THE 5 KLESHAS

    How does this relate to the Yoga Sutras? In Tantra of the Yoga Sutras, author Alan Finger states the following:

    “The five kleshas are what cause the mind to become engrossed in the belief patterns that create mental disequilibrium and psychological distress.”

    Here are the 5 kleshas:

    1. Avidya: Ignorance
    2. Asmita: Ego
    3. Raga: Attachment
    4. Dvesha: Aversion
    5. Abhinivesha: Fear of Death

    Finger, Alan. Tantra of the Yoga Sutras. Pg. 42 (Yoga Sutra 2.3)

    In this particular class, Matt points to raga and dvesha in relation to inversions and inversion drills. Raga here means that you are keen to practice inversions because, for example, they are familiar, or you already feel confident practicing them. Dvesha, being the opposite, may come from your fear or lack of confidence in your ability.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    INVERSION DRILLS: CONQUER THE FEAR THROUGH TECHNIQUE

    HEADSTAND DRILLS

    Once you look at inversions through the lens of raga and dvesha, Matt explains that there are 2 next steps to follow:

    1. Become aware of what you avoid and attach to.
    2. Practice taking action in the direction of what is appropriate for you.

    In headstands, there may already be aspects you are comfortable with. If it’s appropriate for you to move forward, Matt offers techniques that will strengthen your confidence.

    First, he makes a connection to Handstand by pointing out that whether you are practicing on your head or your hands, the same principle applies: lean and resist. You lean forward to go upright, but then you must resist to prevent yourself from falling. There are muscle engagements that will help you to find your balance. In the headstand inversion drills, pressing your head back into your hands while pressing your fists and forearms into the ground will allow your neck muscles to become your brakes.

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    HANDSTAND DRILLS

    In handstands, one of the prominent activations comes from the forearms; this is done by gripping the ground. As in the inversion drills for Headstand, you can make use of other props to find better access to “lean and resist.” Keep in mind that it’s not all about strength. Hamstring flexibility supports your ability to go upright. In these inversion drills, Matt makes great use of blocks and a chair as a way to minimize the amount of hamstring flexibility that is required.  

    These tools play a role in the incremental steps he’s talking about. The props are used as a way to mitigate fear. You also become deeply immersed in technique, which creates a rise in ability and confidence. In the video, you’ll see the attention placed on things like the articulation of your feet, your pelvis, and even your distance from the wall. These are important specifics that will transform your experience.

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    300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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    • Get 500 hour certified
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    • Masterful sequencing and verbal delivery
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    LISTEN TO THE FEAR

    Fear has a loud voice. What you do with it will determine your path. That voice can push you away from something magical that’s waiting for you, or it can provide you with better connection to your own discernment. If the message is to take action, to conquer that fear, then reverse engineer your steps. In your yoga practice, lock into the techniques that quiet the voice of fear and strengthen your ability. If your focus and awareness are placed on those actions rather than the fear, you’ve already conquered it. The better choice may be to not engage, and this is also a powerful option. Either way, you are more confident in your decision-making and your ability to select what’s right for you. Take action to find the right path by registering for Matt’s 15-Hour Chromatic Yoga Immersion.

    See you on the mat!

    The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

    The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Chromatic Yoga 15-Hour Immersion

    lotus pose online yoga classes

    ONLINE ANATOMY COURSE

    • Accessible, exciting, and easy to learn
    • Anatomy and biomechanics for yoga
    • Appropriate for both teachers and students
    • Learn joint alignment vs pose alignment
    • Demystify yoga poses and transitions
    • Release aches and pains
    • Learn how to avoid common injuries
    • Caters to all levels with modifications and props
    • 20 hours Continued Education Credits with Yoga Alliance
    • 20 hours toward Chromatic Yoga Certification and 300 Hour
    • Lifetime access

    Continue Learning

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    L Pose Handstand Training

    L Pose Handstand Training

    Activate Core and Hip Flexors

    handstand prep

    L POSE HANDSTAND TRAINING

    We’re all aware of the importance of taking baby steps when we have a bigger goal we’d like to achieve. L Pose Handstand training falls under that category when it comes to taking steps towards Handstand. Matt refers to L Pose as the “first entrance to handstand.” Before you take flight, practicing L Pose in different planes is one of the best ways to really prepare and understand the biomechanics involved in the posture. Practicing L Pose on your back provides a more controlled opportunity to learn how to really engage the hip flexors and core muscles.

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    HANDSTAND & MEDITATION

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    BREAK THROUGH MENTAL & PHYSICAL BLOCKS

    • Learn the most effective drills to safely build your Handstand
    • Practice essential meditation techniques to break through mental barriers and build confidence
    • Improve focus and breath support right side up and upside down
    • Build strength and the necessary skills for balancing Handstand
    • 12 classes: All levels appropriate
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    THE MYTH OF THE CORE

    Core strength might be the first thing you believe you need to develop while preparing for Handstand. Matt explains that there’s no doubt that this is a necessary part of the equation, but if you’ve conquered the action of the “push” in the shoulders (shoulders up towards your ears), the use of the core is a refinement only when the shoulders are out of alignment. If this is the case, you’ll have to utilize your core a lot more to keep your back straight and possibly pull the legs from behind you.

    WATCH THE VIDEO: L POSE HANDSTAND TRAINING


    CORE MUSCLES & HIP FLEXOR ACTIVATION

    What is the core? The core muscles are a great deal more than the superficial muscles of the rectus abdominis. In terms of Handstand, a large part of the focus is the deeper core muscles (the psoas major and the iliacus, also referred to as the iliopsoas). These muscles are a key component when it comes to stabilizing the pelvis and thighs in a handstand. With L Pose as the first entrance to handstand, an awareness of the importance of the activation of the hip flexors is paramount.

    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!
    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!

    IMPLEMENT THESE ACTIONS: L POSE ON YOUR BACK 

    Here are the cues for L Pose Handstand on your back:

    1. Take your arms overhead (be sure to actively lift your shoulders up towards your ears)
    2. Straighten your knee as you pull one leg closer to your chest. It’s the strength of the hip flexors that will help you bring this leg in as close as possible  
    3. The opposite leg stays close to the floor, with your heel only about 1 cm from the ground
    4. Pull your front ribs down (this will engage your abdominals)
    5. Continue to pull the top leg close to your chest without lifting the bottom leg up 

    The desired outcome is to maintain all of these actions simultaneously. L Pose Handstand training on your back lays the foundation for when you’re ready to explore the shape in other planes (including other postures, like Warrior III). It also helps you to feel the alignment in your body. Drawing your rib cage into the floor, for example, creates the pattern of the stacking required above your pelvis.

    STRENGTH

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    THE GROUNDWORK

    Groundwork? In this case, the pun is intended. L Pose Handstand training literally has you on the ground in order to lay a solid foundation. Essentially, it can take the fear out of the equation—going upside down can be quite intimidating. Approaching the “bigger goal” of having a handstand practice by utilizing bite-size drills and techniques can give you the confidence to progress to the next level. You have to crawl before you can walk, and this is essentially the Chromatic way. When you take this approach, you gradually build upon each layer and strengthen the neuromuscular connection. Handstand training becomes more approachable when you prepare your body via time, patience, and effort. If you’d like to build on this foundation, take action by registering for Matt’s immersion Handstand & Meditation.

    See you on the mat!

    The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

    The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

    Article by Trish Curling

    Video Extracted From: Handstand & Meditation Immersion

    CHOOSE YOUR PATH

    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!
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    Continue Learning

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    • the Technique Pack: 15 yoga pose breakdowns
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    KICK UP INTO HANDSTAND

    KICK UP INTO

    HANDSTAND 

    Master 3 Key Actions 

    alignment

    HANDSTAND—3 KEY ACTIONS

    “Squeeze in, turn in, tuck the tail.” These are the 3 key actions for handstands that Matt explains are a must. These may sound like simple cues, and they may even be easy to execute if you’ve already mastered kicking up into a handstand; however, if the pose is brand new and/or you’ve been working at it but still can’t “crack the code,” doing these 3 key actions in addition to all the other steps to prepare yourself may be what you’re missing. Layering on the specific techniques and muscle activations that Matt lays out for you is an essential part of your journey to kicking up into Handstand.  

    It’s impossible to skip the steps required when the intent is to kick up into a handstand position. This actually pertains to any posture, but if you’ve practiced with Matt before, you’ll know how much he stresses that it’s the foundations and the repetition of those foundations that really prepare the body for the desired outcomes. When you repeat these actions over and over again, you build the patterns into your body so that when it comes time for more robust movements and shapes, your body will respond.

     

    Handstand and meditation online yoga classes

    HANDSTAND & MEDITATION

    ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

    BREAK THROUGH MENTAL & PHYSICAL BLOCKS

    • Learn the most effective drills to safely build your Handstand
    • Practice essential meditation techniques to break through mental barriers and build confidence
    • Improve focus and breath support right side up and upside down
    • Build strength and the necessary skills for balancing Handstand
    • 12 classes: All levels appropriate
    • Lifetime unlimited access to all
    • Attend livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

    SALE PRICE: $168.00

    MORE INFORMATION

    HANDSTAND PREPARATION 1 & 2

    Here are the steps for Handstand Preparation 1: 

    1. Place your hands on the ground
    2. Set up your blocks behind your forearms
    3. Straighten your elbows 
    4. Elevate the scapulae (push the floor away and bring your shoulders up to your ears)
    5. Lift your heels as high as you can

    Handstand Preparation 2 is a continuation of the process and includes lifting one leg up.

    Here are the steps:

    1. Inner leg lifts up to the sky as high as you can
    2. Look up to the lifted leg; when you do this, it’s common for your weight to shift back. Your weight needs to go forward
    3. Lean forward into your fingers (or more specifically, into the metacarpals)
    4. Lift the bottom heel as high as you can 
    5. Push through the arms (lifting the shoulders up)

    What muscle engagements are happening? The gripping of the ground leads to activations in the muscles in the forearms. The elevation of the scapulae leads not only to the activation of the muscles of the shoulders (deltoids) but also to the contraction and use of the trapezius muscles. 

    This action of elevating the scapulae also helps you avoid shoulder impingement.

    As you lift the shoulders up, you are getting longer through the sides of your body, which creates length and stretch through the latissimus dorsi; however, it’s the upper fibers of the trapezius that you want to strengthen in order for you to rely on the strength there rather than on the stretch in the latissimus dorsi. Additionally, contracting the abdominals will assist in bringing the ribcage back and into better alignment, reducing excessive spinal extension. The action here is to contract the abdominals while expanding. You can do this by pulling your front ribs down as you continue to push strongly through your hands.

    WATCH THE VIDEO: KICK UP INTO HANDSTAND

    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!
    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 2024 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN!

    HANDSTAND PREPARATION 2 WITH A CHAIR

    Before we dive in, be sure to use a chair that is stable and steady on the ground. Matt can use a rolling chair due to his many years of experience in the posture. This is important, because once you set your hands on the ground, you place 1 foot on the chair prior to the required muscle engagements. The chair should be secure for you.

    Once you have 1 leg on the chair, Matt walks you through the same steps as in Handstand Preparation 1 & 2. However, there are some slight differences when you use the chair. Matt cues you to feel as though you are pulling the chair towards you, while the top leg stays away from the wall.

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    KICKING UP INTO L-POSE HANDSTAND

    When your foot returns to the ground, it’s easy to feel very heavy towards your foot, so leaning forward into the hands is imperative.

    Now, Matt stresses that the ability to balance in “L-Pose Handstand” is a must. This means keeping 1 leg low. If you can balance there, this can translate into sending both legs up to the sky. Remember those 3 Key Actions for Handstand from the beginning? 

    1. Squeeze in
    2. Turn in
    3. Tuck the tail

    What do these actions mean, and why are they important?

    Once you’re in a handstand position, you have to stop the movement of your hips; otherwise, you will be thrown off balance. In this stage of maintaining your balance, squeeze in means squeezing your legs together (activating the adductor and abductor muscles). Turn in means to internally rotate the thighs (activating TFL, pectineus, and hip flexors). Finally, tuck the tail (posterior tilt of the pelvis) helps to activate the hamstrings, the glute muscles, and hip extensors). Doing all of these things will help to stabilize the legs in Handstand.

    With all of this, there is still so much more to this posture. Matt’s next immersion, Handstand and Meditation, begins September 7th. Gain deeper insights into what is required of both mind and body by registering for the immersion.

    See you on the mat!

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    Video Extracted From: Anatomy Of Arm Balances

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    Down Dog: Avoid Shoulder Impingement

    3 Steps to Avoid Shoulder Impingement

    in Downward-Facing Dog

    Should You “Relax Your Shoulders” Away From Your Ears?

    In my previous blog, “The Yoga Cue That Could Be Destroying Your Shoulders,” I explained how taking the arms up overhead while dropping our shoulders down our back could be a recipe for shoulder impingement. Many teachers use Downward Dog as a “resting pose.”  In my experience, I have found that “relaxing” in Downward Dog is quite often the reason for most shoulder issues but can easily be rectified with the 3 cues I provide in the video and photo breakdown below: 

    1. Externally Rotate the Humerus
    2. Pronate the Forearms (not directly related to the shoulder but balances out Step 1)
    3. Elevate the Scapula 

    Elevation of the scapula happens when you lift your shoulder blades upward, which is like “shrugging” your shoulders, or when you excitedly reach your arms up to the sky. We naturally let our shoulders lift when our arms go up, but since many instructors cue the opposite, it is easy develop a pattern that does not serve the health of our shoulders. In addition to the verbal cue of “soften your shoulders,” gravity also causes issues if we don’t actively resist when we are in postures like Downward Dog, Forearm Stand, Handstand, or in a jump forward. My suggestion is to strengthen the muscles that elevate the scapula (upper trapezius and serratus anterior being the primary ones) in order to develop the pattern that can help to avoid shoulder impingement.

    Many people cringe when I suggest strengthening the muscles that lift the shoulders up, saying something like “but my shoulders are stuck up by my ears, shouldn’t I relax them down?” The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is that muscles hold tension when they are weak. Your shoulders are likely up by your ears because of stress, rather than excess strength . . . unless you are a world champion bodybuilder . . . then ignore this. We also have muscle-holding patterns, which means that when we hold our neck, head, and arms in one position for most of the day, it will cause the muscles to become accustomed to holding those positions, and as a result you will be somewhat stuck in that shape. Simply pulling your shoulders back down will not relax the trapezius; rather, it could cause more stress, and the muscle could become more aggravated.

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    BUT ISN’T IT IMPORTANT TO RELAX MY NECK?

    Relaxing is undoubtedly important, and it will help release tension in your mind and body. At the same time, muscles relax from being activated properly and then released. You have certainly experienced this after engaging your muscles in a good workout or yoga class and then the incredible relaxation afterwards. Stretching a muscle can help release tension at times, but more often than not, I find active engagement or passive shortening of a muscle is far more effective. When a muscle is healthy and strong, it is better able to relax.

    Follow the 3 easy steps in the video below to avoid shoulder impingement, and you will grow stronger in your trapezius muscles and rotator cuff.

    Maintaining Joint Space

    Research indicates that externally rotating the humerus helps to move the supraspinatus tendon away from the impingement area under the acromion process. Essentially this means that by rotating your arm bones outward (biceps turn forward) you are less likely to pinch the the soft tissues that run between your arm bone and the shoulder socket. 

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    Other Helpful Muscle Engagements

    Research also shows that activating both the biceps and triceps at the same time  can actually support creating more space in the glenohumeral joint  (where the arm meets the shoulder socket). You can do this by actively pushing the arms straight, and then try to squeeze your hands toward each other like a bull dog.   It is challenging to do oppositional muscle engagements so this takes a bit of exploring. First work on straightening the elbows and activating the triceps. When you squeeze your arms toward each other you will also get the added benefit of activating the adductor muscles which can also support more space in the shoulder joint.

    DOES THIS APPLY TO HANDSTAND AS WELL?

    Your shoulder joints do not know the difference between downward dog and handstand – aside from the gravitational pull, the shoulders are in the same alignment in downward dog as they are in handstand, this is called flexion. When the arms are flexed over head, you are at risk of impingement. The only difference is that in handstand you have to compete with gravity and so you will need to increase your efforts. You will find much more on this subject in the online course titled Handstand Part 2: Balance.

    Step 1 - Externally Rotate the Arm Upper Arm Bone

    Rotating the humerus externally when the arm goes up over head can help to avoid the impingement interval in the joint. One of your rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus, runs through the glenohumeral joint (under the acromion process and above the head of the humerus). This muscle helps to lift the arms up from tadasana, but because of its location it is easily pinched if the arms go over head but the shoulder blades don’t follow the movement. Downward dog is often the culprit- the weight of the body on the shoulders requires that we put effort into the posture to push the ground away, however with cues like “relax your shoulders” and “soften” we often release the appropriate muscular action required to maintain space resulting in shoulder impingement. In plain English – Externally rotate your arms (triceps rotate toward your face) and you will maintain more space in the joint and less potential for impingement. 

    Step 3: Upward Rotation of The Scapula

    From the outer line of your shoulder blades press through your hands into the earth. When you elevate your shoulder blades toward the ears from the outside line of the arm, the bottom wingtip of the scapula begins to rotate out and up – this is known as upward rotation of the scapula. As a result of upward rotation your shoulder blades rotates and angles itself to allow the arm bone to be overhead without a collision of bones in the joint, creating less possibility of impingement. 

    Step 2: Pronate the Forearm

    When externally rotating the upper arm bone you will notice that the lower arm (forearm) will go along for the ride and rotate as well. This results in an increased pressure in the outside of the hand and wrist. To evenly distribute the weight to the whole hand, simply pronate your forearm, by rotating the inner forearm and hand down toward the ground. Many teachers will stress this by asking you to press your index finger and thumb down. Depending on your range of motion in your radial ulnar joint,  you may not be able to press the inside edge of your hand down and maintain external rotation of the shoulder. My suggestion is to turn the hands slightly outward if this is the case. Learning to rotate the forearm in opposition of the upper arm bone can be challenging, but through mindful repetition you will be able to do it, and you will feel an increased strength and stability from it. To Strengthen your wrist, I highly recommend Handstand Training

    The 3 Actions

    While I have broken this down into 3 steps, with time and practice it can be 1 step and the 3 actions can happen all at once. To build muscle coordination it is useful to separate the actions and practice them individually. Though I created a definitive order to follow, know that it is beneficial to mix up the 3 steps and put them out of order. You may find another combination to work better for your body! The dotted red line above is to indicate the path of the bottom wing tip of the scapula. If you do not do push the bottom wing tip will wind up closer to the spine, it is helpful to video yourself to see where your shoulder blades are on your back. 

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    Depression of the Scapula

    Pulling your shoulders down away from the ears is the opposite of everything I have mentioned in this post, however it is an important action to work on especially for arm balances like side plank because depression creates stability when the arms are at or below shoulder height.

    When Can I Relax My Shoulders?

    One of the best parts about getting stronger with shoulder elevation (upward rotation) is that the muscles of your upper trapezius will become more supple and be able to relax more easily. Just like after working really hard in a yoga class you feel that complete relaxation in your body, each of your muscles experience that after being strengthened. There are plenty of opportunities to relax your shoulders down your back – just not when you reach your arms overhead. So when you are sitting at your chair you can think shoulders move slightly back and shoulder blades relax downward. When you are in a strong posture like crow pose and your upper arms are not over head, you can even work on strengthening the muscles of depression of the scapula. My philosophy on the body is that there are no wrong actions or muscle engagements, there are just appropriate and inappropriate times to use them.

    A great rule of thumb you can take with you: when in doubt just let your shoulders follow your hands – if the hands go up, let your shoulders go up, if they go down let them go down, if you reach forward let them go forward, etc. Enjoy your exploration, thank you for stopping by!

    -Matt

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