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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