All last week we focused on the lungs. We started class by breathing into the three sections of the lungs, creating spaciousness in these organs. Keeping that fullness, I added another piece of the torso puzzle. This week we focused on the rotator cuff muscles. I've often read that the shoulder is the most dislocated joint in the body (technically the glenohumeral joint). Furthemore the tendons of the four rotator cuff muscles are the most common & most persistently injured part of the body.
There are four rotator cuffs:
*The infraspinatus and teres minors live in the back of the scapula.
*The supraspinatus lives on the top of the scapula.
*The subscapularis lives on the inside of the scapula.
The four rotator cuffs originate from the same bone (scapula) and insert into the same bone (head of the humerus). They create a continuous cuff of support that together helps maintain the head of the armbone in place.
This week we practiced bringing awareness to this location of the body. I -as well as several students- had such a pround insight from exploring. Instead of bringing the "head of the armbones back and plugging it in," which is how I was taught, the discovery was that by moving the scapulaes back, it naturally aligns the shoulder complex, while keeping a spaciousness in the chest. We explored that in the poses, especially Down Dog, Ustrasana, Cobra. They felt so broad and free. No more "plugging in" aggressively. No more "head of the armbone back" but rather a widening in the collarbones, an openness in the shoulder blades, creating stability and spaciousness, without sacrificing either.
I brought a little model of the right shoulder that I own and showed the locations of these muscles. I invited them to look at the bones, at their form and shape and let that inform their movements. I also invited the students- and this is a note I got from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen- that whenever they move their arms to move them from their scapulaes, and whenever they move their bodies to move them from their clavicles. Tiny, beautiful shifts occured. I felt honored to witness them. Lastly I invited them to stand in Tadasana and gently open their thumbs out, and see how that naturally opens the chest. We went down to our knees and went back to Camel that way. Then stood up and went down to Uttanasana with our thumbs turning it.
Now I leave for Restorative Yoga on Thursday nights, and tonight we will do heart openers, twists and side stretches to help release any tightness in the shoulder girdle.
And so it goes.
Several students thanked me after class, telling me how helpful and interesting it was. I hope that now and then we live with a greater appreciation towards the little miracles that the body performs and a zest to explore eloquence in our expression. May we create beauty with the way we move our arms, our fingers, ourselves.