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Open Shoulders

Picked up a copy of Yoga Journal (Feb 2008) & discovered that not only have I been doing my downward dogs wrong all these years… I’ve been standing/sitting/walking/cooking/driving all wrong too!

The problem is with how open my chest is & the effect that has on my shoulders.

Yes, I’ve been blessed/lucky enough to be back pain free so far but I have been getting occasional should twinges–and now I know why… I haven’t been using my external rotators!

(The article is called Shoulder Saver by Julie Gudmestad)

We should all be engaging our external rotators but many of us (yes, me! me!) unknowingly slip into internal rotation, which leaves our external rotators lazy, inactive & prone to abnormal shoulder movements that may contribute to inflammation, pain & injury.

She writes:

To get a feel for engagin the shoulder external rotators, stand facing a dining table or desk. Lean forward and place your hands on it, palms down and bearing a little weight. Now look at your elbows, noticing the crease on the inner sides and the point of the elbows on the outer sides. WHen you rotate your arms so that the elbow creases point forward, you will be externally rotating your shoulders.

When you rotate in the opposite direction and the points of the elbows poke out to the sides, you will be internally rotating your shoulders.

It was really an eye opener. I tried it–confidently assuming I would be doing it ‘right’ but found to the horror/dismay of my anal A-type self that my left shoulder especially has a tendency to lapse into internal rotation… no wonder I haven’t been getting full ‘massage effects’ from practice!

It’s good to be reminded that I still have so much to learn in the most basic of poses!

I didn’t mention my puppy time yesterday–there were 3 of them. The little brother & sister (who share a cage) were happy rushing around after a yellow tennis ball & have mastered the art of coaxing treats from people. They know that they get rewarded for performing a ‘sit’ but not for jumping… but jumping gets the attention of the human holding the treats… so what the smart doggies do is a bounce up, paw bat, bounce down SIT, (tail wagging so furiously that the whole bottom waves) look how GOOD I’m being! Till the treat comes, then another bounce up & paw bat… but the third puppy, a little intimidated by the noise (we were in the back area where all the other dogs in their cages could see them & were saying ‘hi’) was just going from lap to lap… he would climb onto a lap & just sit there & stare either up at your face as you held him or at the other puppies running around. He’s not sick or anything, just compared to sitting on a cement floor in his cage he prefers human laps!

6 Responses

  1. backbends… i actually like (liked?) backbends though unassisted dropbacks are still a universe away…

    and yes, I totally agree with the ‘better to fix it now’…

    I’ve been trying to put the ‘fix it now’ into practice actually, in small as well as big ways… just fix that little stray thought, that little mis-alignment, that little project…

    maybe I’ll make it my March project!

    or in the spirit of things I should take that first little step towards fixing it now…!

  2. Yeah! I know, it’s a shock, isn’t it? But it’s better to try to fix it now! (I was actually rotating my shoulders outward—the opposite of what I should’ve been doing!)

  3. same in backbends? noooo!!!

  4. Oh! And it’s the same rotation in backbends, too! (Richard Freeman told me this, and it’s really hard for me to do.)

  5. My shoulders give me a lot of trouble. In fact, I’ve had to cut down the number of breaths I hold downward dog because rotating the shoulders out causes a lot of grinding. I guess I’ve been lucky in the sense that all of my teachers emphasize the outward rotation. But I seem to have very flexible shoulders and, as a doctor I saw last year said, one part “impinges” on another (which I think causes the grinding).

    I think I’ll be going to a physical therapist so they can check out my shoulders and tell me whether I’m doing very bad things to them. (I’m kind of afraid to go, though, because I don’t want to be told I shouldn’t be doing this pose or that pose).

  6. A teacher once told me I was open at the shoulders – which is a good thing but it also means I will be prone to shoulder injuries. So I guess I know what you’re talking about.

    She taught us to do “downward dog” against a wall and observe the rotation of the arms and the stretch of the neck from there.

    She was the first teacher to emphasise what she calls, “happy rotation” of the arms and shoulders – the external rotation. She taught us to observe the form of the pose, how it feels, before actually moving onto downward dog on the mat.

    The only other class that had such emphasis on proper alignment was my Anusara teacher – but it’s probably because John Friend had studied under Iyengar before and he integrated what he learnt into his teachings.

    I find it useful to go for smaller classes/individual sessions where the teacher can zero in on your specific needs. The larger group classes offered at Pure just doesn’t also give the proper foundations and the teachers can’t be around all the time.

    If it is available to you, it must be helpful to check out one-on-one yoga classes that could really fine-tune your poses.

    If you’re interested, you might like to check out the International Yoga Centre at Oxley: http://www.iyc.sg/

    I took Shadow Yoga with Joan last year and Joan is truly wonderful. She is patient, detailed and very, very kind.

    My Shadow Yoga class was a small class of 2 students, so it was a really hands-on experience. I come out of each class with so much to learn. It makes me wonder if I had ever truly learnt any thing about yoga all these years. Very humbling. Which may be why I never went back even though I know it’s good for me.

    I really need to go back.

    Just saw your life to PostPunkKitchen. Yay! They rock! And they’re also awfully funny in that brassy but self-aware kind of way.

    And just in case you’re interested, their newest cookbook, “Veganomicon” was released last year and it’s fun, fun, fun. Very user friendly too.

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