Posted by: eveyoga | January 25, 2011

Armpits, Take 2

One of the comments from yesterday’s post, a question really, is from Amanda who says:

”Eve – could you say something about ways to assist those with this problem [shoulder problems} to recuperate without surgery…I have been exploring alignment of the muscles around the rotator cuff and strengthening them also and working sensitvely with the cuff tears area/impingements…with students and self…seems to happen when people have had a regular practice (4/5/6 days a week) over many years and then irregular for some years and  then come back in with a new determination, and an assumption/wish that the body will respond in the same way as when the regular practice was in place…thank you!

She’s absolutely right. Many injuries happen in the manner described. One day we wake up and think I’ve got to do something about my stiff back, neck and shoulders, I’ll get into yoga.

What the prospective student doesn’t usually take into account is that, as stiffness is creeping in, the muscles of the upper arm and shoulder are becoming increasingly weak.

Throwing oneself headlong into exercise after a long absence from it is a sure-fire recipe for many months of treatment at the hands of the physiotherapist. Even if one has been a constant yoga practitioner, the stakes are raised as we age or as advanced poses are introduced.

What a complicated joint the shoulder/arm is! It’s really clavicle, scapula, sternum, humerus, and more. To understand how best use the shoulders and arms in yoga poses, you really need to understand all the ways the joints move and what muscles best support each movement.

Urdhva hastasana (arms overhead) has slightly different joint requirements than the standing poses with arms outstretched. The backbends, urdhva mukha svanasana (up dog) and ustrasana (camel) differ from each other, too.

It would be so much easier if we could just apply one template to all asanas. The time invested in learning the anatomy of the shoulder/arm joint gives a big pay-off in terms of healing injuries and safeguarding against them in the first place.

Two great resources are Applied Anatomy & Physiology of Yoga by Simon Borg Olivier and Bianca Machliss and Awakening the Inner Body by Donald Moyer. Both books are written for advanced yoga students or yoga teachers.

Which reminds me, check out my recommended yoga books under Bookshelf in this blog’s header.

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