Shoulder Connections

Shoulder Connections

3 Postures for Increased Mobility

shoulder stability


To increase mobility in our shoulders, we must first understand how they move, so we become more connected with their function and how they inform a variety of yoga postures. The exploration with intentional techniques is the key to gaining access to these postures. 

In regard to heart-opening postures, “shoulder connections” are also about understanding how the retraction of the shoulder blades affects the chest, rib cage, abdomen, and spine. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates the shoulder actions needed to access 3-Part Cobra, Upward Dog with blocks, and Wild Thing. The way that the retraction of the shoulder blades is applied in these postures will not only create the desired heart-opening shape but also strengthen the muscles necessary for healthy shoulder mobility.

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    The sequence of actions in this posture teaches us the ability to authentically stretch the front body and strengthen the back body. There’s a greater requirement for us to recruit the muscles in the upper body due to the decreased reliance on the hands to hold us up (if we allow it). In the video, Matt starts the sequence of lifting the upper body off the floor by first using the leverage of the hands; in order to reduce compression in the lower back, he sends the rib cage forward, then pulls the belly in and up. Here’s the key though: It’s the activation of the rear deltoids, the retraction of the shoulder blades, and the action of pulling the chest through the shoulders that creates the “bowing of the spine” required in all backbends. 




    If we pay attention to the smaller, more intricate details within the application of techniques in a posture, the benefits become more profound. First, Matt demonstrates the simple action of turning the fingers outward on the blocks. Lifting the shoulders up and back now becomes more accessible, which encourages the action of external rotation in the arms, promoting retraction of the scapulae and allowing for more opportunity to contract and strengthen the rear deltoids, rhomboids, lower fibers of the trapezius muscles, and the latissimi dorsi. The final action is to push the hands down into the blocks to access increased spinal extension along with greater heart opening.  

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    In Wild Thing, there are 3 shoulder actions that help create more expansion and mobility in the shoulders. First, we lift the bottom shoulder up, move it back (retract), and then bring the bottom wing tip of the shoulder blade around. These actions send the chest forward and up. The posture is different, but the same actions apply here as in 3-Part Cobra. In the full class, Matt reminds us that it can be easy to lose the integrity of the positioning of the shoulder once we start to lift up into the pose, but if we continue to connect with the sensation of muscle contraction between the shoulder blades, there’s more success in maintaining the shoulder position. Ideally, the chest is above the height of the shoulder. In order to gain shoulder mobility, we must build strength and endurance in the muscles associated with and connected to the shoulders. Stretching alone will not have the same effect.

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    Shoulder mobility means having the ability to move the joint through the full range of motion. We can see why this is beneficial when it comes to heart openers: In order to find expansion, we need to be able to move the shoulder joint freely and safely. Strengthening also means better stability. In postures like Wild Thing, where we’re balancing on one arm, stability and strength are a must for a solid foundation.  

    Exploring the shoulder actions multiple times within a practice helps us record the biomechanics in our bodies. This is the reasoning behind the layering of actions and postures in a Chromatic Yoga class.

    In the 2nd week of Matt’s current 3-part workshop, Shoulder Mastery, he delves into shoulder strength for arm balances. Register and get access to this class and to last week’s class about the shoulders and heart openers.

    See you on the mat!

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Shoulder Mastery

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