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Ask Yoga Today

Ask Yoga Today – Opening Your Shoulders for Advanced Poses

Posted: November 22nd, 2011 by Neesha Zollinger 3 Comments

Hi Neesha,

During your class we practiced the royal one-legged pigeon pose and I found that my most restricted area was my upper shoulders. Do you have any guidance how to encourage tight shoulders to reach back when the elbows are up? Thank you! Mel, NM

Hi Mel!

Tight shoulders become very apparent when the arms are asked to stretch overhead and catch a foot.  I know that you are not alone. The best advice I can give you is to go through the principles of shoulder alignment in every pose.  When your arm bones are lined up in your shoulder sockets, and shoulders are evenly on the back, there is the highest degree of integrated opening. I will talk you through it.

In Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana if your right arm is up, expand fully inside and massively melt your heart because there is no way you can do this pose through effort alone.  When you melt your heart, your arm bone will deepen into your shoulder socket, creating integration of the arm bone (humerous) in the shoulder socket (glenoid fossa).

Once you have that integration, with the arm still straight, move it back.  As you move the arm bone back, 3 things will need to happen simultaneously:  your inner shoulder, outer shoulder and outer elbow will all move back.  This makes your armpit nice and hollow (read:  healthy shoulder).  Melt your heart again and repeat 2 more times.  At this point, your right arm is still straight, but your right shoulder blade will be on your back with the inferior angle(bottom tip) moving up and into the heart.  Then, keeping those actions, bend your elbow and catch your foot.  TADA!

Actually, it is not so easy, and much easier with a friend.  The bottom line is to get clear with the actions and the shoulder will open.  If you go quickly for the foot the arm bone will tend to pop out creating more dis-integration.  If you feel your armpit resembling a Barbie arm-pit (sticking out), you know you need to breathe and melt your heart again.