After waking up with a sore neck that didn’t go away, I was moving my shoulders every way I could to release the tension I felt in my upper back. Aargh! BUT, this got me thinking about the mobility of my shoulders.
I notice that when I straighten my arms by my ears, they can go a fair distance toward the wall behind me. And when I do poses like puppy/Anahatasana with my arms on blocks, I have very little restriction. So, I wondered, then why can’t I grab my toe from overhead in poses like king dancer and king pigeon. It would seem I have the flexibility in both shoulders and hips. I can reach back from the side and hold my foot close to my head but I can’t make the pivot to holding from overhead (and each time I try, ouch!). Stands to reason, tho, that I should be able to just reach back overhead and there’s my foot, right?
So, I took my arms back, then bent my elbows. Lo and behold, both hands turned toward each other and my elbows turned out. If I attempted to turn them in I lost the backwards mobility. Does this happen for you, too? I had always felt that the restriction to me in these poses was about my shoulders. I thought I needed to be able to take them further back. Learning that was not the case, I was confused. But now I had an answer, or part of one. I needed to work on being able to rotate my arm to point my fingers back in that position. Hmmm… that’s hard. So I am working up to it…
I am working with a yin variation of puppy pose that I learned from the fabulous Diana Batts to help release the fascial tension. For this, lie down on your stomach, with your elbows on blocks and a block between your hands and simply hang out here for a few minutes. For a deeper version, change the height of the blocks or do this standing with your elbows on a table. Obviously, if you have funky shoulders, this pose may not be a good idea for you personally.
Next, I work on the opposing strength and stretch by taking one arm back, holding the elbow in a fairly static plane as I rotate the forearm in and out. And you know, when I started to do this, my neck and upper back began to release! No more pain in the neck. I had assumed the restriction was more rotator cuff or shoulder cap related, but the restrictions I actually felt were between the shoulder blades along the spine and from the shoulder blades to the neck. Chronic areas for me.
Not this wasn’t a movement or direction I usually take my arms, though. Headstand does some of it upward bow does, too. Lying on my back arms by ears rotating the shoulders to turn the palms down is similar (and great for tingly hands :-). I imagine the feel I should really be going for in forearm stands is this, too, and that’s why I find it challenging to establish a super solid base without feeling like one arm is about to fly out from under me. Yes, I do love a strap for forearm stand to ease my worried mind! So by working these poses with my new discovery in mind, I find I am making slow steady progress toward grabbing that toe behind me with ease and my upper back is surely softer, more flexible, and stronger than it’s been in a long while. This makes me a happy girl!
Yoga is always an exploration. Every practice is an experiment. No matter your level is there is always something new to learn, to feel, to become aware of. So cool!