My shoulders are excited. They are like little untrained puppies that sneak up, attempting to lick my face. My sankalpa, “I am the master of my shoulder flexion,” continues to remind the naughty shoulders about obedience and how to stay down. There’s so much activity that happens out in the front of our world. My computer, smart phone, driving, child toting, fitness and yoga distractions continue to invite elevation and internal rotation bad habits. The shoulders anticipate the excitement and perceive their forward position will keep them involved and happy, yet the full potential for proper mobility is stifled and their longevity suffer.
In high school, I played volleyball, and I irritated my right shoulder biceps tendon from repeated improper body mechanics while reaching to hit the ball. 20 plus years later, my irritated biceps tendon is like a cranky old dog that wants so badly to join in a game of fetch. Excited, aggressive and unstable, the pinched biceps tendon is as painful as a dog bite. That’s until I found YTU “harness training.”
The shoulders are the most complex joint as their directions of movement (elevation, depression, protraction, retraction internal rotation, external rotation, abduction, adduction, flexion, extension and circumduction) can be cross bred and perform visually spectacular acrobatic yoga poses. Yoga Tune Up® begs the question: should we encourage the puppy mill format of yoga as shoulder health is compromised in poses such as the over-bred chatturanga dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) and mutated adho mukha svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)? When I was a volleyball playing teenager, I had no idea that I should strengthen the harness muscles on the back side of my shoulder girdle; after all, the world was always out in front of me. With maturity, I now am more cautious in movement patterns and choose to pay attention to what exists on the backside.
Each breed of dog has natural instincts. Some are more docile, agile, powerful, aggressive, submissive, or excited. We have all seen the difference of an owner walking a wild pulling leashed dog and a calmer tamed harnessed one. The dog that can’t be trusted from the restraint of a simple harness is tethered around the neck (maybe with a choke chain or pinch collar), excitedly frothing out the mouth, aggressively pulling the owner forward towards other dogs or humans. The same is true for these excited, powerful and aggressive joints. Shoulders that are trained in heavy loading should not be excited in elevation and internal rotation while flexed and pinching the large head biceps tendon. They should have more control to sit down and stay back and depressed.
Which muscles are responsible to harness the shoulders into submission? Harness training shoulder depression starts with the serratus anterior. This superhero of all dog trainers stands out in body builders as its external surfaces harness to the upper eight or nine ribs and anterior surface harnesses the medial border of the scapula. With good training habits, it is able to abduct, upwardly rotate and depress the scapula’s scapulothoracic joint, preventing over-excitement even in the most overzealous Downward Facing Dog poses. It is assisted by the lower fibers of the trapezius and pectoralis minor. To strengthen the serratus anterior while prepping for the Downward Facing Dog “show,” first do prior trainings focused on these three Yoga Tune Up® poses, Raise the Chalice, Megaplank with Active Serratus and Dolphin Supinate. All three poses will strengthen the shoulder blade harness muscles to actively depress and protract no matter how the glenohumeral joint behaves in shoulder flexion. Whether my flexed shoulders jump up and hit a ball or take on my body weight, I feel stable with the strong serratus anterior calmly harnessing my shoulders. I am the master of improving my shoulder flexion.