We all know that doing yoga can help create ease and freedom in the shoulders and keep them healthy. This is such good news for sports enthusiasts, and anyone who relies on their arms to throw, catch, bat and lift. Indeed one of the most common conditions that can sideline athletes and weekend exercise enthusiasts is a rotator cuff injury. Although yoga can create rotator cuff problems as well, the YogaFit method of scapular stabilization can lessen the possibility of injury by zeroing in on the shoulder girdle. In our trainings, we focus on scapular retraction and depression; in other words, actively releasing the shoulder blades back and down. A typical YogaFit cue (which you know from our Anatomy and Alignment courses and our Level Two training) is to bring the load into the shoulder girdle by engaging our “wings,” (the serratus anterior) and squeezing an imaginary ball in the armpit.
There’s some great research out there that backs up what we’ve been teaching for years. Loren Fishman, MD, associate clinical professor at Columbia Medical School, conducted a clinical trial to see whether doing a Triangular Forearm Support exercise (aka Dolphin Pose with scapular stabilization) would relieve rotator cuff pain. The results were amazing. The researchers followed a group of 50 participants for 36 months. Forty-six felt “150% improvement” immediately after performing the exercise—doubling their range of motion and lifting their arms like they normally would. And surprisingly, the relief held for at least 30 months.
Students needn’t do headstand to reap the same benefits as the participants in the research. Do Dolphin Pose or a more modified version at the wall, which we teach in our Prenatal training. For the wall modification, cue your students to relax the chest toward the floor, pausing when ears are in line with the biceps. Create a strong line from elbows to shoulders and hips. Encourage them to press elbows (not wrists) into the wall (remember that imaginary ball) to firm the shoulder blades onto the back and free up the shoulders. Stretch the whole body away from the wall, bending knees as needed. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds.