Your shoulders shrug for a number of different conscious and unconscious reasons. But the culprit holding the stress in your body is the trapezius muscle. The hood over your neck and shoulders, the large sting ray shape that covers your cervical and thoracic spine, is one of the main places that the body accumulates tension. The collection of tension manifests as shoulders that rise up so high they eventually get mistaken for earrings.
The trapezius muscles run from the base of the occiput out to the shoulder blades and down to last thoracic vertebrae. It has multiple origins. The first is near the base of the skull but the second, the hood part, isn’t until the lowest thoracic vertebrae (C7). From this point on down the spine there are attachments all the way down the thoracic spine. This is the central line of the muscle. From these axis the thin fibers blanket out to cover most of the spine of the scapulae.
Stiff neck and shoulders and the rise of the shoulders towards the ears is a common subconscious reaction to stress. The tension that accumulates in the mind often overflows and is stored in the body. It is a common bodily response to store this overflow of tension in the trapezius. But, it’s also important to note that if tension can be accumulated in the body via the mind, it is also possible to treat some of that tension in the mind via the body.
This means that if the tension in the mind is being stored in the traps, we can turn around and tenderize the traps to release the tension and, in the process, help the mind release or sometimes resolve its stress.
In yoga, shoulderstand is very challenging for students who have chronically short upper traps. These students will definitely be at a disadvantage, they will not be able to lower their scapulae into a position where the scapulae can press the the ribcage forward and up, in order to lift and open it.
Yoga Tune Up® offers a wide variety of postures that help to work with the traps in a way that will work with all types of bodies. In a sense, Yoga Tune Up® balances the playing field while actively getting into these muscles.
Shoulder Circles and Epaulet Arm Circles both allow the traps to contract deliberately in their full range to better affect a more complete release of the muscle if there is chronic tension held there. Reverse Crucifix and Twisted Child are two other postures which use the body weight to bear down on the scapulae (protracting it) to broaden the upper back and open the trapezius.