In the first part of this article, we reviewed the anatomy of the serratus anterior muscle and its role of protracting the scapula. To help integrate our understanding, we physically explored the sliding protraction and retraction of the scapula in the pose ‘Protraction Retraction Push-ups’.

A winged scapula is an indication of an unstable shoulder.

A winged scapula is usually an indication of an unstable shoulder.

The serratus anterior stabilizes and protracts the scapula during pushing movements, such as in pushing open a heavy door, or in yoga when you do Plank or Chaturanga Dandasana. Activation of this muscle prevents the scapula’s medial border from lifting or “winging”, a common sight when these poses are performed incorrectly.
So, how do we activate the serratus anterior muscle in these exercises?

Actively push the floor away with your hands as if lifting your heart towards the ceiling and simultaneously imagine drawing the hands towards your feet like you are shutting a window. Continue with these cues all the time you are in the pose. As you do this you may feel the image I used in the first part of this article of the large 9 fingered hand hugging your back and side ribs and suction cupping your scapula onto your upper back. If it is too challenging on the ground, you can do it standing at the wall. The benefit is the same and it is easier to propriocept the serratus in this organization.

There is nothing like physically practicing to take words from a page and embody the movement! Try on your new plank and let me know how it feels in the comments below.

 

Enjoyed this article? Read Blanket Bonanza!

Sue Taylor

Sue Taylor is a certified yoga teacher through the Esther Myers studio in Toronto. She is a regular teacher at CNIB (formally known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) where she created a yoga program for their clients. This unique experience keeps Sue on her toes and challenges her to dig deep into her tool box of knowledge and creativity. Always keen to develop her understanding of yoga and movement based modalities continuing studies has led her to the work of Jill Miller. Attending her first Yoga Tune Up(R) class Sue remembers that it 'felt so right'. Her body felt amazing and she knew this was something she wanted to explore further. In addition to her teaching at CNIB, Sue offers private classes, corporate programs and workshops in the Newmarket and surrounding areas.

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Priscilla Daniel

After Yoga Tune Up training teaching planks will never be the same.

Katie Fogelson

This muscle took me a very long time to “feel”, but once I was able to access it, it really transformed my planks, push-ups, and overall shoulder stability. I love practicing transitioning from a push up into downward facing dog as a way to really reinforce should protraction and activation of the serratus.

suzanne Muro

Scapulas push ups are great for strengthening serrated anterior and can be done from table or quadruped position as a warmup up in practice and /or from plank -,I think it’s really important to show students what protraction and retraction look like because many may not know and/or not know how it feels in their own bodies. “Bodysurfing on a blanket” one of my favorite yoga tune up exercise so far, can also be a great way to Bring awareness and/strength here. I have also used a soft ball between the shoulder blades for crunches; knees bent, a slight posterior… Read more »

Monica Afesi

Learned about this in Pilates training as well. I was happy this was taught in Yoga Tune Up and will continue to incorporate in my teachings. Thanks.

Cynthia

These instructions are perfect for me as I am truly struggling with protraction of my scapula. Your cues are the missing bit of info I needed to put this all together.

michele

Thank you for theses great cues! Just sitting here I can easily visualize and activate my serratus anterior by imagining that I am pushing a wall away in front (heart towards my back) and simultaneously imagine trying to resist drawing my hands down towards my feet. Now I can practice even when I am driving!

Andree

I’ve recently completed the Level 1 YTU course and have just learned of the serratus anterior. Being able to activate it during push-ups and various other exercises/poses makes everything feel so much more stable! Great post!

Kammy Fung

Love the way you describe “ push the floor away as of lift your heart towards the ceiling and simultaneously image ink drawing the hands towards your feet like shutting the window”. The image helps a lot of the movement and activation of the anterior serratus.

Julieann

I have been struggling for the right cues to work here. This cue, “Actively push the floor away with your hands as if lifting your heart towards the ceiling and simultaneously imagine drawing the hands towards your feet like you are shutting a window.” really is helpful.

Sarah Millar

I had the exact same realization about my planks in Level 1 as well. Discovering my serrated anterior has made me more aware of how to perform my Planks and Chaturanga Dandasana properly. Thank you for sharing this, Sue.

Peter Southall

Thanks for this reminder. Sometimes these things need to sink in before they stick.

Peter Southall

Since taking YTU level 1 I have been working on this for my plank and chaturanga, especially chaturanga where I lose the engagement. Time. Thank you for this reminder.