Work Smarter Not Harder in the Shoulder…Use Yoga
If you practice yoga or know much about it, you’ll have seen the yoga pose “chaturanga dandasana” or four limbed staff pose (see photo).
You will also know it is not an easy pose to do. It requires significant global strength and motor control (aka finesse and body awareness).
What many do not realize though, is how equally effective AND high-risk the pose can be.
Recently I saw a post that targeted the dangers of the yoga posture chaturanga dandasana (think push up). I was happy to see a post that (finally) acknowledged the difficulty of the “yogic push up.”
I clicked on the link and was taken to a short post that discussed how the serratus anterior was the champion of shoulder joint stability. Now – to clarify – the serratus anterior does contribute to scapular stabilization, but it doesn’t act alone, nor is the chief stabilizer of the glenohumeral or scapulothoracic area. Still, I was pleased that the article addressed a commonly overused and overwhelmingly abused posture.
I applaud the article for making some very important points:
- Safe yoga depends on smart yoga. (i.e. having a knowledge of joint alignment laws and muscle recruitment patterns).
- There is more to yoga than stretching.
The shoulder complex and its four joints (scapulothoracic, glenohumeral, acromioclavicular, and sternoclavicular) comprise a sophisticated network of osteokinematic (range of motion of a joint) and arthrokinematic (glide, spin, and roll in a joint) movements, making for a number of multi-joint and connective tissue force couples in the shoulder region. Yoga, because of its complex system of postures, is a perfect fit for both open and closed kinetic chain rehabilitation, strength training and conditioning, and neuromuscular re-education.
Chaturanga, or yogic push-up, is an advanced yoga posture learned over a period of time in yoga practice. However, the following pre-posture, called “Arm Spiral,” can be taught at any level and incorporated into your integrative medicine practice right away. Arm Spiral is one of many accessible yoga preparatory postures taught in the Medical Therapeutic Yoga courses available through Medbridge Education, and is used in the Diagnostic Algorithms of the Professional Yoga Therapy Certification program.
Safe Yoga Practice Depends on Practicing Smart Yoga
Medical Therapeutics of Yoga in Focus: The Arm Spiral
Some of the systemic benefits to practicing arm spiral include:
- Postural awareness and neuromuscular education
- Synergistic core control, when used with TATD breath, based on the Integrated Model of Joint Function
- Myofascial release & neural mobilization
- Joint stabilization via co-contraction and force coupling action for scapulothoracic and lumbopelvic stabilization
- Gateway posture and provision of stability in all yoga postures in open and closed kinetic chain(s)
- Neuroendocrine regulation and allostasis, when coupled with long, deep breathing and TATD breath
- The posture preserves spinal curves and maintains co-contraction for scapulohumeral rhythm and scapular stabilization.
- Dynamic Modifications made to the posture can make it accessible for all patient and wellness populations.
- The action of the posture does not use scapular protraction or retraction, until it is used in a closed kinetic chain position. Even then, the scapula should feel depressed and the movement initiated from the lower trapezius and inferior force coupling, rather than from the upper trapezius or isometric contraction of the rhomboids.
- Neural tension can be assessed in the median and radial nerves from this posture.
- Those with rotator cuff lesions, often resulting from shoulder impingement, require modification.
More modifications and clinical applications, static restorative approximations, are covered in Module 8, Yoga as Medicine I, the lab companion course to Medical Therapeutic Yoga A and B (Modules 1-7) offered through Medbridge Education, which introduces arm spiral as one of a set of postures used for assessment and injury prevention.
Learn more about Medical Therapeutic Yoga and the PYT Method
- Lee, Diane BSR, FCAMT, CGIMS “Pelvic Stability & Your Core” Presented in whole or part at the: American Back Society Meeting – San Francisco; BC Trial Lawyers Meeting. 2005.
- Lee D 2004 The Pelvic Girdle, 3rd edition Elsevier Science
- Alfonse T. Masi AT, Nair K. Evans T. Ghandour Y. Clinical, Biomechanical, and Physiological Translational Interpretations of Human Resting Myofascial Tone or Tension International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, & Practice, Vol 3, No 4 (2010)
- Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, Rein T, Karri SK, Yakhkind A, Perlmutter R, Prescot A, Renshaw PF, Ciraulo DA, Jensen JE. Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 November; 16(11): 1145–1152. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0007