What Are The Tilts Of The Scapula?

What Are the Tilts of the Scapulae?

4 Postures to Help You Lock Into These Shoulder Actions

SHOULDER ROTATION

WHAT ARE THE TILTS OF THE SCAPULAE?

When we first dive into studying anatomy, it’s all about the basics. Once the foundation is laid, it becomes easier to scaffold more information. There will always be a learning curve, however, especially in the context of yoga. In Chromatic yoga, it’s about more than intellectually understanding anatomy; it’s also about how we integrate our knowledge of anatomy into our bodies from a non-dogmatic point of view.

When studying shoulder anatomy, we are introduced to the basic actions (protraction, retraction, depression, and elevation). In today’s clip, Matt introduces us to the idea of “the tilts of the scapulae.” He explains that it can be a difficult concept to understand, both intellectually and physically. Essentially, it requires the co-activation of opposing muscle groups in order to create a lock for maximum support around the shoulder girdle. We gain insight into the tilts of the scapulae via 4 postures in today’s video.

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    UPWARD VS. DOWNWARD TILT OF THE SCAPULA

    Upward Tilt

    To begin integrating the upward tilt of the scapula into our bodies, we can begin by sitting upright and sending the shoulder forward while drawing the elbow back. This naturally sends the scapula climbing up over the rib cage.  It’s the pectoralis minor that initiates this action. This muscle helps pull the shoulder down towards the front of the ribs.

    Downward Tilt

    This can be harder to understand and integrate. The first step here may be to draw the head of the humerus back. When this happens, the bottom wing tip of the scapula pushes forward into the rib cage.  

    If we pull the rib cage back into the scapulae, as Matt explains in the full class, this creates a “suction cup” effect from the co-activation of opposing muscle groups. This is effective in our yoga practice when stability is required in postures like Chaturanga and arm balances like Side Crow.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    WHAT ARE THE TILTS OF THE SCAPULAE?: 4 POSTURES TO LOCK IN ON THESE SHOULDER ACTIONS

    SIDE-ANGLE PREPARATION

    Part of integrating and understanding the upward and downward tilt of the scapulae is to explore the actions in postures in which we can remove some of the balance and strength elements from the equation. 

    When Matt demonstrates the downward tilt of the bottom scapula in Side-Angle Preparation, he explains that there is a distinction between where retraction and protraction take place. The initial action is still to pull the head of the humerus back, but understanding that there is a degree of retraction in the upper border of the scapula but protraction in the bottom wingtip helps us to negotiate its placement. We create the  protraction by pressing the elbow down into the top of the leg; this helps the bottom tip slide forward. From here, we can explore what the sensation feels like in order to record this pattern into our bodies.   

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    CHATURANGA AND JUMP BACKS

    In Chaturanga, it can be easy to fall into the pattern of allowing the head of the humerus to dip forward. When this happens, it’s very different from creating protraction. Repetitively allowing the head of the humerus to dip forward can cause strain in the anterior capsule of the shoulder. The goal is to create a play between the actions of external rotation of the humerus and protraction, depression, and retraction of the scapulae.  

    For Chaturanga Jump Backs, Matt presents a drill utilizing a towel. Again, we get an opportunity to practice the actions of external rotation of the arms, pulling the top of the arm bone back. Matt also reminds us that we can start by sending the scapulae into upward rotation to more distinctly feel the difference, and then execute the actions that will help us stabilize the jump back with the downward tilt of the scapulae. 

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    SIDE CROW

    In an arm balance like Side Crow, it’s imperative to feel more confident in our ability to “lock in” to the stability required. Because it’s required to send our weight forward in order to access the lift of the feet in the posture, we must be careful not to lean into an upward tilt—this would lead to imbalance in the posture and perhaps to a fall. In the clip, we see how the emphasis of pushing into the heel of the hands (which brings the bottom tip of the scapulae around) while sending the chest through (which draws the head of the arm bone back) and sending the weight forward into the fingers is ultimately what helps us access the balance required for Side Crow.

    ALLOW YOURSELF TIME FOR FULL INTEGRATION

    Ultimately, being patient enough to understand and integrate these actions will transform our experience in our practice. Exploring these actions in a variety of postures will take us on a journey of self discovery. We can tap into what comes naturally; at the same time, we can discover where we experience challenge and resistance. In the full class, Matt explains that upward and downward tilt of the scapulae can be difficult to comprehend. What this means is that it may require more persistence to uncover what is possible in our bodies.

    Register for Matt’s 2-hour online shoulder workshop, The Shoulder Reset, where there will be an abundance of opportunities to more deeply connect to and understand the biomechanics of the shoulders and how these new understandings can be applied to our yoga practice. 

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Shoulder Revelation

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    Learn To Fly In Side Crow

    Learn to Fly in Side Crow

    Get to the Core with 3 Variations

    ARM BALANCE

    LEARN TO FLY IN SIDE CROW

    Getting to the core of this arm balance will awaken a potential in your body that you may not be aware is even present. Learning to fly in Side Crow actually goes deeper than going through the motions of different variations. If you’ve been practicing with Matt, then you know that he teaches and applies very specific techniques within a posture and/or its variations; these techniques show you how to intellectually approach the execution of a yoga posture. The 3 variations you’ll see in today’s video will show you how to properly activate the muscles (obliques, abductor group, adductors, and hip flexors) in order to tap into the potential that awaits you.

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    THE 2 MAIN ACTIONS

    The clips from today’s video are taken from the Anatomy of Arm Balances immersion. In the full class, Matt invites you to step back from balancing in the posture so you can actually connect with your core muscles. How is this done? It’s the positioning of the arm that’s furthest away from your body that allows the core connection to take place. You’re left with no choice but to utilize the obliques to gain height. Action #1 then is to hike the top hip up towards the same-side shoulder (obliques and gluteus medius activation). Action #2 requires the activation of the hip flexors. Here, you’re pulling your knees towards your chest while energetically pulling your bottom knee (if it’s the right) towards your right shoulder. This common thread runs through all 3 variations in some form. Let’s examine the techniques involved.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    LEARN TO FLY IN SIDE CROW: GET TO THE CORE WITH 3 VARIATIONS

    SIDE CROW: NO PROPS

    Starting with this variation provides a nice baseline for you to see where you may need to place more emphasis. You’ll see how wide the distance is between Matt’s hands. Spreading your hands far apart forces you to lift the hips up as high as possible, which turns on the upper obliques. Dropping the hips (which is common) significantly minimizes your use of the obliques. These 2 main actions, along with leaning more forward and of course gripping your fingers into the ground, are the keys. If you are challenged anywhere along the chain of events, dial it back and work on the sensations of the activations (e.g., hands wide while lifting and lowering the hips with a contraction in the obliques). Still unsure what to feel? Have a look at the variations with props.

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    SIDE CROW WITH A STRAP

    This Side Crow variation with a strap is a great option to explore if you require more awareness of the upper obliques. This particular variation also places weight on the activation of the tensor fasciae latae (TFL). The TFL is both a hip flexor and internal rotator. The internal rotation helps to fire up the abductors of the bottom leg. Doing this creates more stability and provides greater access to the posture. Adding a strap doesn’t make it easier, but what you will receive is feedback. Pressing into the strap is like pressing into the guiding hand of a yoga teacher. You won’t be able to ignore the sensations here, I promise you. The abductor muscles will speak to you, and it will be quite the conversation!

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    SIDE CROW WITH A BLOCK

    Lastly, Matt demonstrates Side Crow with a block. Placing a yoga block between your thighs or shins helps you to squeeze everything into the center. Here you’ll feel the adductors while you try to hold the block in place. This option is closer to the first variation as regards shape, so it’s a great one to incorporate into your practice to encourage the 2 main actions with your legs hugged in towards one another.

    EXPLORE AND INTEGRATE

    In conclusion, unlearning some of the habits you’ve patterned that don’t require you to focus on just how strong can become in Side Crow will pay off in the long run. When the effort is appropriate, it is what drives you forward—as Matt always teaches, “explore and integrate.” Thinking about the possibilities available to you is actually pretty exciting. When you focus on building strength, you can learn to fly in Side Crow. After strength, weightlessness and lightness in the posture follow. A challenging arm balance like Side Crow will then emanate more ease than effort.

    Register for Matt’s February immersion, Breath of Fire. This immersion will go deeper into how you can access your core muscles in order to progress in the awareness of your body and your practice.

    See you on the mat!  

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    Video Extracted From: Anatomy Of Arm Balances

    Yoga for Core and Breathwork

    BREATH OF FIRE

    • Moderate Vinyasa-style classes
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    • Each class will include one pranayama (breathwork practice) and several core strengtheners
    • Access your core muscles: deep, superficial, anterior, posterior, and lateral 
    • 12 Classes: All levels appropriate
    • Lifetime unlimited access to all
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    Arm Balances: Protraction Action

    arm Balances: Protraction

    Finding Ease and Lightness in Arm Balances

     

    ARM BALANCE STRENGTH BUILDING

    Most who practice yoga have come to realize that the practice requires a certain physical strength that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the image of strength in our head. Every yogi has seen a physically in-shape gym goer walk into a yoga class and struggle in his/her first down dog. The reason for this is because there are tons of muscles in the body, and all of them have a purpose. The ones you see on the surface are called the superficial muscles, and their job is primarily to create big movements like swinging a baseball bat, jumping, climbing, etc. While many Yoga postures and transitions require the use of these muscles, the Deep muscles or stabilizing muscles are often most used. In this video, I go over the muscle groups that I find are most important for the majority of arm balances.

    Serratus Anterior

    The muscles I speak of in this video are the Serratus Anterior, and the 4 layers of abdominals (rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominis). Serratus Anterior is incredibly important for many arm balances because it creates stability in the shoulder blades and moves the body away from the ground. In the “Handstand Strength Training” video I give exercises in plank pose to help students develop the strength of this muscle. When this muscle is fully engaged in plank the body is further away from the ground. The same is true in arm balances. Further from the ground begins to feel lighter and easier, and as mentioned in the video above, your wrists will feel better as well. The reason you feel lighter and more at ease when the Serratus Anterior is fully engaged is simple- all muscles have an easier time contracting when they are fully shortened. Think of your bicep muscle; isn’t it easier to hold a weight in your hand when your hand is closest to your shoulder vs halfway down at the “holding a tray” position. Part of this is the relationship to gravity but even if you changed the angle of your body that would still be the easiest position for the muscles to be engaged. This is the same reason why it’s easier to do a little tiny pull-up vs going through the full range of motion from straight arms all the way up to bent arms. If you are looking to build strength in the Serratus Anterior I suggest checking out either “The Breakthrough” or “The Chakras and The Elements”. Both immersion focus on strength building for arm balances. 

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    Arm Balances: The Core

    The four abdominals have multiple functions including flexion (rounding) of the spine, twisting, side bending, stabilizing, and compressing/lifting inner organs (primarily the transverse abdominis). Depending on the pose, many arm balances require one or more abdominals to engage because of the shape, and because they have the ability to make the midsection more compact. The more compact you feel, the lighter you will feel because all the extremities tend to pull in closer to the center of gravity when the abdominals engage. What I am not going over in this video is the important role that your legs play within all arm balances. I will be releasing another video on Youtube soon showing you how the legs relate to the core. If you are interested in finding out when that video goes up, subscribe to my newsletter and I will let you know. Developing strength in the abdominals has long been a part of the fitness industry, but until recently it was purely for visual purposes. Most people associate having a six-pack with health, but the reality is that it’s more important to have core intelligence than strength. A little strength and a lot of awareness go a very long way, much further than a lot of strength and little awareness of how to use it. Developing strength through applied actions such as doing handstand, crow pose, or exercises that produce greater intelligence in your body is what I focus on in my handstand and arm balance practice. As a result not only do I feel strong in my asana practice but my back feels great, and I am able to apply the awareness to other activities that require body intelligence. For my favorite core strengtheners you click here, or if you are looking for free ways to learn, simply search youtube for how to strengthen the 4 muscles of the core (searching each muscle separately). Anyone who offers an application for the strength and not just the exercise is likely thinking along the same lines of “muscle intelligence” vs strength. Remember you want to know what the muscle does intellectually and know what it feels like in your body. That combination will make it easier to apply later on to your practice!

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    arm balance strength for shoulders

    Plank at the Wall

    Taking plank at the wall is one of the best ways to truly develop proprioception for protracting the shoulder blades. As mentioned in the video protraction is when you push the shoulder blades apart from one another and they move around your rib cage. This is an activation of the serratus anterior muscles which tend to require strengthening for most people. At the wall, you can focus on the action without the requirement of strength.

    arm balance strength for crow pose

    Flexion of the Spine

    Flexion of the spine in arm balances requires the muscular activation of the rectus abdominals, obliques, and likely the deep core muscles. While it is possible to do arm balances with the core completely relaxed and still hold the postures, it tends to be easier with the recruitment of them. To develop strength in your core, I highly recommend my top exercises on the Handstand Training video. 

    arm balance strength of the core

    Crow With Protraction and flexion

    Putting the two actions together might sound complicated but the two actions actually go hand in hand. Protraction makes spinal flexion easier to access and vice versa. I recommend first trying this in plank posture. If you haven’t yet watched the two blogs on Chaturanga, this is the best place to start integrating protraction into your arm balances. After you’ve worked with chaturanga, if you feel confident balancing crow then you can try applying these actions.

    First Awareness, Then Strength.

    It’s easy to try and jump ahead and go straight to our most challenging arm balance posture and try to apply new actions to it. This approach is okay but if you find that you are not getting it or not feeling a difference, it’s likely because your body needs to develop an awareness around the action itself before it can build strength. We need to create the feedback loop in our body from thought to action to sensation and back again. Once that feedback loop is established, strength can be built through repetition.

    Thanks for joining me here. I hope these tips help with your practice and/or your teaching. Please share your comments, questions, or requests and I will get back to you.

    -Matt

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    • the Technique Pack: 15 yoga pose breakdowns
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