Our shoulders are highly complex and they only vaguely represent a ball and socket joint. Mostly supported by muscle and connective tissue.
Despite their complexity, they are remarkably strong if the structure is not compromised. Heard the sayings ‘put your shoulder to the wheel’ and ‘he carries the world on his shoulders’?
We generally have a lot of tension in this area and through our yoga practice we can work at reducing the tension, improve strength and flexibility and learn how to move more intelligently helping us to become more aligned and well in our everyday lives.
Striving to build strength in the body we are often too quick to transition both into and out of this posture and often lose the fluidity of the transition and compromise integrity.
Key focus in chaturanga dandasana is to explore keeping elbows alongside body and hands underneath elbows on the journey down from phlakasama/plank.
In order to achieve wrists underneath elbows; draw crown of head and chest forwards before you lower. You’ll feel the rolling forwards onto your toes. Then lower in one line like a rod and once lowered, maintain space between your torso and the floor and check that shoulders are not lower than elbows. Pause and embrace the pose before pressing through into urdhvamukhasana/upward facing dog or bring knees to the floor before journeying to bhujangasana/cobra. From bhujangasana/cobra you may then wish to then transition to urdhvamukahsana/upward facing dog. Either way, maintain integrity in the shoulders – if you feel weakness then move with intelligence and bring knees to the floor before you feel the shoulders collapsing/retraction.
While you build your upper body strength for full chaturanga dandasana, consider 6 limbed staff pose. Mindful that doing less often achieves far more. From plank bring the knees to the floor. Draw crown of head and chest forwards before you lower and you’ll feel you’re rolling onto the tops of your knee caps. Keeping the chin and chest off the floor so 6 points touching; feet, knees and hands. Then pressing through into bhujangasana/cobra.
Personally from either option, chaturanga dandasana or 6 limbed staff pose, I like to then bring my chest to the floor before pushing through into the back bend. It feels better in my shoulders. Explore what feels good for you.
Everyday changes to improve the health of your shoulders
When plugged into the computer; elbows in alongside body and outward rotation of the forearms then rotate the wrists downwards
Cross arms behind your back rather than in-front
Rucksacks rather than hand-bags
Ramp your head back and slightly tuck your chin. Think ears over shoulders, extending the cervical spine (back of neck) rather than turtle head with chin jutting forwards