FLIP DOG DILEMMA

3 SHOULDER ACTIONS FOR WILD THING YOGA POSE

WILD THING

IS the popular yoga pose “FLIP DOG” WORTH IT?

If you practice or have been to a modern vinyasa or power yoga class than you know that flip dog is a popular posture that is called out somewhere toward the middle or end of the yoga class as an option. I have yet to be in a class where the instructor explains what flip dog is or how to get in to it. So how do you do the pose?

RISK VS REWARD

If you have practiced with me than you know that I am not a “there is only one way to do a pose” kind of teacher, but more of a “one or two ways not to do the pose”. The way NOT to do a pose is one that presents high risk of injury. While I don’t think flip dog poses a massive immediate threat on the shoulder girdle I do think that the way people are approaching it presents a higher than necessary risk on the gleno-humeral joint (shoulder) with out any real reward that would outweigh the risk. This is an important distinction, within the physical practice of yoga or anything else for that matter there is a risk factor that is unavoidable but when we weigh the potential benefits we often still make the choice to proceed. We do this everytime we sit in a car or board an airplane – the risk is catastrophic but the potential gain is worth it to us that we take the risk. So what is the risk of flip dog and what is the potential gain?

The way most people execute the yoga pose we call “flip dog” is more or less like reverse table top but on one hand and that but hand is turned out. To me the extreme extension of the shoulder is fine when baring weight on both hands and fully activating the posterior shoulder muscles (the muscles around the shoulder blades. Take away one hand and enter the pose from down dog and most people wind up punching the head of the humerus (arm bone) forward, putting the pressure in the anterior (front) part of the glenohumeral joint capsule. there are ligaments there that keep the arm bone snuggled into the shoulder socket – putting pressure on them starts to destabilize them and over time this could cause a knocking of the arm bone in the shoulder socket causing all sorts of soft tissue damage.

SOLUTION

First off, Don’t freak out, doing a flip dog here and there is not going to kill you, but there is an easy solution that still allows you to participate in this section of class, simply do Wild Thing Prep (shown as the starting position in the video below, and rise up to wild thing). Flipping over from down dog makes it easy to over load the joint as the weight of your body and gravity are falling downward. RISING UP you will be forced to use the muscles of your shoulders, hips, and back and you are less likely to have enough stretch to put yourself in a compromising position.

In the September Immersion we worked through the 3 primary shoulder actions through out a 75 minute class and then we learned how to apply them directly to wild thing! Each immersion practice focuses on a different yoga pose in order to develop a greater understanding of our body.  

We start in a prep position and line up the shoulder for maximum muscle recruitment and minimal joint risk, and then we try our best to maintain these actions as we rise up. You will see some further details in the video about how to line up your legs and how to shift your weigh out of your hand as well in order to utilize your hips and back which are much stronger than the shoulder.   

If you practice or have been to a modern vinyasa or power yoga class than you know that flip dog is a popular posture that is called out somewhere toward the middle or end of the yoga class as an option. I have yet to be in a class where the instructor explains what flip dog is or how to get in to it. So how do you do the pose? 

RISK VS REWARD 

If you have practiced with me than you know that I am not a “there is only one way to do a pose” kind of teacher, but more of a “one or two ways not to do the pose”. The way NOT to do a pose is one that presents high risk of injury. While I don’t think flip dog poses a massive immediate threat on the shoulder girdle I do think that the way people are approaching it presents a higher than necessary risk on the gleno-humeral joint (shoulder) with out any real reward that would outweigh the risk. This is an important distinction, within the physical practice of yoga or anything else for that matter there is a risk factor that is unavoidable but when we weigh the potential benefits we often still make the choice to proceed. We do this everytime we sit in a car or board an airplane – the risk is catastrophic but the potential gain is worth it to us that we take the risk. So what is the risk of flip dog and what is the potential gain? 

The way most people execute the yoga pose we call “flip dog” is more or less like reverse table top but on one hand and that but hand is turned out. To me the extreme extension of the shoulder is fine when baring weight on both hands and fully activating the posterior shoulder muscles (the muscles around the shoulder blades. Take away one hand and enter the pose from down dog and most people wind up punching the head of the humerus (arm bone) forward, putting the pressure in the anterior (front) part of the glenohumeral joint capsule. there are ligaments there that keep the arm bone snuggled into the shoulder socket – putting pressure on them starts to destabilize them and over time this could cause a knocking of the arm bone in the shoulder socket causing all sorts of soft tissue damage. 

SOLUTION 

Don’t freak out, doing a flip dog here and there is not going to kill you, but there is an easy solution that still allows you to participate in this section of class, simply do Wild Thing Prep (shown as the starting position in the video below, and rise up to wild thing). Flipping over from down dog makes it easy to over load the joint as the weight of your body and gravity are falling downward. RISING UP you will be forced to use the muscles of your shoulders, hips, and back and you are less likely to have enough stretch to put yourself in a compromising position. 

In the September Immersion we worked through the 3 primary shoulder actions through out a 75 minute class and then we learned how to apply them directly to wild thing! Each immersion practice focuses on a different yoga pose in order to develop a greater understanding of our body. 

We start in a prep position and line up the shoulder for maximum muscle recruitment and minimal joint risk, and then we try our best to maintain these actions as we rise up. You will see some further details in the video about how to line up your legs and how to shift your weigh out of your hand as well in order to utilize your hips and back which are much stronger than the shoulder.   

Wild Thing Shoulders: 3 Actions 

Step 1 - Elevate the shoulder

Step 1 is to allow the shoulder to come toward the ear, this makes step 2 more possible by releasing any of the muscles that are trying to stabilize the shoulder blade and this allows for mobility. As a result your shoulder will be stuck in front of your chest with very little access to back body muscles. So step 1 is really a preliminary step in order to access step 2 & 3.

Step 2: retract shoulder blade

Next, move your shoulder back (retract the shoulder blade toward the spine) this will recruit your back muscles bringing you greater stability while you rise up. The more you retract your shoulder blade the less you will stress the shoulder joint so focus heavily on this action, though it will take time for your pectoral muscles to develop flexibility.

Step 3: Rotate Shoulder Outward

To Stabilize the shoulder joint we then rotate the arm bone outward. This action winds up moving the shoulder blade down your back (shoulder away from ear) but this time instead of your front body muscles pulling it down, the back body muscles are at work. As you rise you will be able to rotate outward more, this will nudge your rib cage forward forming a deeper back bend. 

WHAT NEXT?

Of course I didn’t mention anything here about what is happening in the hips/buttocks, back or core. Every yoga pose is a full participation with your physical body and therefor requires more than just knowledge of your shoulders. However, We have to take everything one step at a time if we are to fully integrate these techniques into our body and be able to masterfully access them throughout our daily life. I suggest focusing on these actions every time you have a chance to do flip dog in a class – flip to a seated position and prepare your self for wild thing.

If you read this far you are either a yoga teacher already, or you are ready to be. For Yoga Teachers looking to advance your anatomy, biomechanics, and teaching skills you will be interested in the 300 Hour Online Training

On the other hand, If you are not a teacher yet, but a Yogi that is ready to dive deeply in to your yoga practice and get certified to share this practice with others than the 200 hour training is your next step!

Thank you for reading, and watching, I look forward to sharing more with you in an upcoming training or monthly immersion!

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The September Immersion includes the full length class to Wild Thing Pose as well as other peak poses with a heavy emphasis on Shoulder Bio-Mechanics! In this package you will get 12,  75 minute Yoga Classes, 4 of which include guided meditations! So, If you want to get to know your shoulders than this is THE immersion to practice!

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