In part one of this post, I described some ways to use the Yoga Tune Up Ⓡ Therapy Balls on part of the shoulder joint . In part two, I will describe a movement sequence that is easily accessible and can be carried out as part of any movement practice.
Injuries tend to happen at the end range of motion of a joint. This would suggest that it is important to build strength at these points through mindful and considered movement. Turn off the autopilot and regain control of the ship! The following Yoga Tune Up® poses focus on building functional strength and, though focusing on one body area, are actually whole body movements. All are performed standing be aware of your posture. Take time to observe your standing posture and your breath before you begin. Place a yoga block between the upper thighs to activate the adductors. Ensure that you pelvis is neutral as is your head. Watch out for head forward position.
1. Matador circles – this dynamic pose is excellent for building strength in the infraspinatus, teres minor, supraspinatus, and deltoids (medial mainly but also the posterior). Use a belt if beginning, and graduate to a blanket or a yoga mat. Shoulder blades are depressed in this one and work to ensure that the trapezius and levator scapulae do not take over the show. The body will want to revert to routine and allow these dominant muscles intervene and bypass the rotator cuff group.
2. Pin the Arms on the Yogi – Maintaining tadasana and keeping the rest of the body still, work on external rotation of the arms against the sides of the body. Do not retract the shoulder blades. This pose, as well as building strength in the external rotators also decouples external rotation from scapular retraction. This is important (a) from a body awareness perspective and (b) as it is a common cue in yoga classes to “open the chest” and “take your shoulders away from your ears,” which results in scapular retraction and external rotation becoming a mashup move.
3. Floating Angel Arms – this one is such a crowd pleaser! Use a strap or a blanket and with palms facing forward, adduct, externally rotate and extend the shoulders whilst maintaining tadasana, neutral pelvis and the natural curvature of the spine. Hold this PNF and thought-provoking movement for at least 60 seconds. Notice the effects of your efforts by feeling the strength work on the posterior shoulder and in contrast, the lightness with which your arms defy gravity temporarily! This is a great pose for enhancing grip strength and focuses on pulling. There are very few poses in yoga where pulling is required unlike in other movement systems. The predominance of pushing movements (think chaturungas, downward facing dog, arm balances) tips the balance over. It is important to incorporate more pulling movement into our lives and Floating Angel Arms is a good way to start.
Try out this sequence and remodel the tissues of your external rotators of the upper body. Challenge the tissues so they have the opportunity to respond and become stronger.