The thing about the shoulder exercises gathered on this page is that they all work, in the sense that a good cookbook works if you actually open it and cook.
But just as cooking has principles that extend through every recipe, yoga has certain principles of movement that work in almost most every pose. Correct shoulder action in one pose is correct shoulder action for almost all poses. (Lolasana and related poses are one exception that springs to mind.)
So you might consider these Five-Minute Yoga Challenges as recipes:
And these are the general guidelines to help you cook with your shoulders.
• Look closely at a skeleton. Notice that the shoulders and arms make a delicate “girdle” that drapes over the upper rib cage – a girdle so expressly designed for mobility that it’s attached to the ribcage, bone-to-bone, in only one place: where the collarbones meet the sternum.
Incorporate that image into your mental body map, and remember, despite what it sometimes feels like, your shoulder blades are not nailed in place. It’s in their nature to glide.
• Whenever you can, roll your upper arm bones out – your palms will rotate forward. Notice how doing that firms your shoulder blades and presses their outer edges gently toward your spine.
Then bend your elbows, pull the backs of your elbows gently down, and draw your inner shoulder blades down your back.
This outward rotation of the upper arms, and downward action of the inner shoulder blades is present in almost every yoga pose. Make it part of your body’s habit pattern, and it will be that much more accessible when you practice.
• In shoulder stand, make sure that you can press down on your outer shoulders.
If you can’t, and instead you feel weight on your neck, try this shoulder stand setup from Donald Moyer.
Even if you’re just not sure, give it a try. If you suddenly find a new clarity and strength in your shoulders, you’ll be glad you did.
This setup, by the way, isn’t necessarily your new shoulder stand prop forever.
The goal is to work the outer shoulders so well, and become so strong and open, that you can work on a flat surface.
But you won’t move toward that goal if you can’t work your outer shoulders in the first place.
That would be like trying to bake without turning on the oven.
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