Yoga Tune Up® Blog


Uplifting News for Depressed Shoulders: The Trapezius Trap

with contributions by Keith Wittenstein. Special thanks to Sarah Court, Dinneen Viggiano and Trina Altman for editing and feedback

This article is Part 5 in a series on shoulder biomechanics.

In our earlier posts of the series, we noted the learning paradigm for how most yoga teachers are trained to teach yoga – the apprenticeship model – as a possible explanation for why the shoulder’s down cue is so often repeated; new teachers hear their teachers using this cue and then repeat it. It’s also a shoulder position that many yoga teachers have been trained to adopt in their own practice. Because a teacher’s practice is the primary resource from which they will draw their movement cues, teachers will often wittingly or unwittingly help their students adopt the teacher’s own postural and movement habits, for better or for worse. In addition to this, we know there are certainly many more reasons that the shoulders down cue gets used when the arms are in the overhead position, one more of which we outline next.

 

The upper trapezius is commonly an area loaded with trigger points and tension.

The upper trapezius is commonly an area loaded with trigger points and tension.

Another possible explanation for this cue, and the topic of this blog post, has to do with the trapezius muscle, a huge muscle of the neck, shoulders and upper back, and the reality that, on a whole, these days people are walking around with excessive tension in these areas of their bodies. The upper trapezius and surrounding tissues can often act as a veritable dumping ground for our mental and emotional anxiety. This tension, felt from the fast-paced, task-driven, success and failure oriented lives we lead, will often manifest as tension in the upper shoulders as we attempt to carry the weight of the world on top of them.

In addition to the upper trapezius being an area that is frequently tense because of psychological stress, it is also a muscle that contains a higher-than-average level of collagen fibers in its soft tissue make up. Collagen is a super tough connective tissue fiber that is especially efficient for doing the long-term postural work of holding the body upright for extended periods of time. The upper trapezius is one of the main postural muscles that holds your head upright all day long so it’s kind of a good thing that the muscle is a little tense. However, the task of holding the head upright gets especially hard for this muscle to do when the head is held forward of the spine, a common postural misalignment we adopt while looking at screens that are below eye level. Read the rest of this blog post »



Uplifting News for Depressed Shoulders: Refining Upward Rotation

with contributions by Keith Wittenstein. Special thanks to Sarah Court, Dinneen Viggiano and Trina Altman for editing and feedback

This article is Part 4 in a series on shoulder biomechanics.

In my last post, I deconstructed scapuloclaviculohumeral rhythm, the co-movement of the bones of the shoulder (humerus, clavicle and scapula) during movement. To more thoroughly understand scapuloclaviculohumeral rhythm, it’s helpful to understand a big-picture role of the scapula in the overhead position. When the arms move overhead, the scapula guides the arm bone. More specifically, the glenoid fossa, or socket, of the scapula pushes the ball-shaped surface of the head of the humerus. Thus, the cue “shoulder blades down,” when the arms are overhead inherently confuses the role of the scapula and mistakes it as a puller downer rather than a pusher upper – another reason “shoulder blades down” when the arms are up is indeed a major downer. Reorienting your conception of the scapula as the pusher of the humerus, can also help clarify the movement the scapula makes in upward rotation.

tadasana arms up

Upward rotation of the scapula is required to flex the shoulders with minimal upper shoulder recruitment.

Let’s say you are reaching your arms upward, as in upward hand pose (see picture). When the scapula upwardly rotates, its lateral border (the side that the socket is on, and in this image the side of her left shoulder blade that is closest to us) moves upward toward the hands. Its superior angle, (the upper inner triangle, which sits just below the base of her neck) moves downward toward the hips. During upward rotation, the outer shoulder blade goes up and the inner shoulder blade goes down. For this pose, you could cue “lift the outer shoulder blade (or outer armpit) upward to reach your arms overhead”. Read the rest of this blog post »



Uplifting News for Depressed Shoulders: Feel the Beat of Your Shoulder Rhythm

with contributions by Keith Wittenstein. Special thanks to Sarah Court, Dinneen Viggiano and Trina Altman for editing and feedback

This article is Part 3 in a series on shoulder biomechanics.

Last time, I discussed the dissonance between scapuloclaviculohumeral rhythm and the common cue of scapular depression during shoulder flexion.

Instead of attempting to draw the shoulders down while simultaneously trying to flex the shoulders, consider ways to work and cue upward rotation of the scapula. A cue such as “Lift your outer shoulder blade up as you move your inner shoulder blade down” will facilitate more ease of movement and a safer position for the soft tissues of the shoulder Admittedly, this cue is far more nuanced than cues that take the whole shoulder blade in one direction, like “pull your shoulder blade down” or “lift your shoulder blade up”. However, if taught verbally – but then also reinforced tactilely by feeling the shoulder blade and its different angles and borders, and visually by seeing the shoulder blade upwardly rotate in a demonstration – can work to help students find and engage the muscles that upwardly rotate their shoulder blades to gain better command of this movement. Upward rotation makes it so the shoulder blade can push the humerus into the overhead position via its connection to the socket, or glenoid fossa. More on the scapula as a ‘pusher’ of the humerus rather than a ‘puller’ later! Read the rest of this blog post »



A Mobility Must Have for Pitcher’s and Overhead Athletes

In my previous piece, “Hips Don’t Lie: A Message to Pitchers Everywhere”, we touched on the importance for baseball pitchers to give their hips a little TLC. Recent research has found a correlation between limited hip range of motion and risk of tearing the elbow ulnar collateral ligament, which can lead to Tommy John Surgery.

The Tommy John surgery is a  prevalent procedure amongst overhead throwing athletes, but as with any surgery, comes with consequences. Improving hip range of motion can reduce stress on the UCL, which can be as simple as incorporating some simple Yoga Tune Up® hip focused poses .One great pose is the Yoga Tune Up® Happy Baby Minivini, shown in the video below. Even if you are not an overhead athlete, this sequence is great for improving the dynamic mobility of your hips for any sport or movement. The hips don’t lie – and having healthy hips can improve your movement for a variety of activities!

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Resources

  1. University of Florida. “In pitching injuries, the elbow is connected to the hip.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2014.

 

Enjoyed this article? Read Ankle Ball Buster: Regaining Mobility After a Sprain.



Hips Don’t Lie: A Message to Pitchers Everywhere

Spring is in the air, which means we are in baseball season! I have had a blast this year working with the amazing baseball players on UCLA Men’s Baseball Team and at Performance Fitness for Athletes in Upland, CA.  Among them, I’ve spent some extra time with pitchers who are often concerned about the heavy emphasis on their throwing arm. However, the topic of conversation with pitchers is not only the importance of taking care of their body holistically, but to pay particular attention to their hips. “Hips?” they ask with furrowed eyebrows and a hint of hesitance in their voice. Yes, HIPS! I realize that many players pay so much attention to their throwing arm, they don’t consider that not caring for their whole body can have serious consequences on the health of the arm they are so concerned about. To shed light on the connection between hips and throwing arm health, let’s discuss Tommy John Surgery (TJS).

UCL ligament

The ulnar collateral ligament joins the humerus to the ulna at the elbow.

What is TJS? TJS is a surgical procedure that “fixes” a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow by replacing it with a forearm tendon. The elbow UCL is a triangular shaped ligament that runs from the medial epicondyle of the humerus to the coronoid process and olecranon process of the ulna. I know this may all sound like gibberish, but take a look at the photo on your right to better acquaint yourself with your elbow UCL. Read the rest of this blog post »



Uplifting News for Depressed Shoulders: Finding the Beat of Scapuloclaviculohumeral Rhythm

with contributions by Keith Wittenstein. Special thanks to Sarah Court, Dinneen Viggiano and Trina Altman for editing and feedback

This article is Part 2 in a series on shoulder biomechanics.

shoulder bonesIn the first part of this article, we discussed cues and teachings that are passed down via teachers and the potential problem that can create with cueing – specifically, the cue “move your shoulder blades away from your ears”. Let’s begin with one of the most important things to know about the shoulder joint complex. It’s not just one joint. It’s four. When you peel back the skin that curtains the shoulder stage, all four of these joints need to work together to allow for the arm’s broad range of 180 degrees of flexion when the arms are alongside the ears. What happens “on stage” appears exclusively like movement of one bone, the arm bone. Meanwhile, what’s happening backstage is a coordinated co-movement of several bones at several joints. Three bones fit together to make up these four joints. They are the arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the lesser known and frequently forgotten about collarbone (clavicle). We will refer to these bones by both their Latin and English names throughout the rest of this blog. Read the rest of this blog post »



Uplifting News for Depressed Shoulders: Parampara or a Long Game of Telephone?

with contributions by Keith Wittenstein. Special thanks to Sarah Court, Dinneen Viggiano and Trina Altman for editing and feedback

Originally, yoga postures were practiced to obtain spiritual enlightenment, not for musculoskeletal health. Renunciates used their asana practice to tame their unruly flesh in order to be able to sit for excruciatingly long periods of time in meditation. Ironically, the demands of today’s technology-driven society have resulted in a similar detachment from the body. Whereas the holy practitioners of old were subordinating their bodies to attain enlightenment, we disregard our flesh for the purpose of greater time online.

Today, yogis use their asana practice to nourish their joints with movement and avoid the musculoskeletal diseases caused by extended periods of sitting. It follows then, if we are practitioners and teachers who do make musculoskeletal well-being a primary goal of our contemporary approach to asana, we will be better capable of meeting that goal by continuously seeking to understand more clearly how this system works. A keener understanding of anatomy will help us practice and teach movement in a way that promotes greater musculoskeletal health. Perhaps more importantly, it will help us avoid movements that might sabotage that health. Read the rest of this blog post »



Become the Master of Your Masseter

On Wednesday, I wrote of my discovery and recovery from jaw and neck pain. Left untreated, tension in your primary jaw muscles, the masseter and temporalis, can lead to dysfunction at the temporomandibular joint, commonly referred to as TMJ. As many young people in this country, I was outfitted with braces from a young age that completely shifted my bite, and as a result, changed the relationship between the soft and hard tissues surrounding my jaw.

If you suffer from jaw pain, neck pain, a clicking jaw or TMJ – try these simple Yoga Tune Up Therapy ball routines that address jaw-related aches and pains. Read the rest of this blog post »



Silence is Golden – Why Talking Could be the Root of Your Jaw Pain

Does your day involve a lot of talking? Do you suffer from regular tension headaches, clicking in your jaw or neck pain that you can’t figure out? Chances are you are hiding a ton of tension in your two primary jaw muscles, the temporalis and masseter.

The masseter and temporalis are responsible for closing the jaw.

The masseter and temporalis are responsible for closing the jaw.

The masseter is one of the strongest muscles in your body relative to its size. It doesn’t get much rest either, as it works constantly anytime you talk or chew. If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw in your sleep (or during awake hours), the masseter and temporalis get even less rest, as they work stressfully around the clock.

The masseter runs from your zygomatic arch (the cheek bone) to the lower corner of your jaw, known as the mandible. The temporalis is appropriately named for its location – on your temple. It lays like a fan over the temporal fossa and inserts into a bony beak on your jaw, known as the coronoid process of the mandible. The primary action for both of these muscles is to elevate the mandible (aka close your jaw).

Like many young people in our country, I had braces as a kid. Part of my orthodontia treatment was to pull adult teeth in my mouth to make “room” in my jaw for an aligned smile.  I was also a tongue thruster and through the use of retainers retrained my tongue to thrust on the roof of my mouth instead of behind my front teeth. As you can imagine, this completely rearranged my bite (as there were teeth in places they wouldn’t have been without intervention) and I hadn’t solved the issue of thrusting, just redirected it. Read the rest of this blog post »



How to Fluff Your Butt

On Wednesday, I told you a bit about why it’s so important to keep the tissues in your rear end fluffy, hydrated and fluid. This is very counter-intuitive to many of my massage clients and yoga students who work hard for their “buns of steel” and then often suffer from too much tightening in the gluteus maximus. If I could, I would require all of them to use the following Yoga Tune Up® exercises to fluff their butts.

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Don’t think that your work is done after fluffing – the gluteus maximus often needs strengthening too. Bring your rear end into your awareness throughout your day, including when you walk and stand. Instead of plopping down into your chair, think of slowly lowering down into your chair and standing up. You can also practice Eagle Pose to help both stretch and strengthen your butt muscles. Make this pose even more powerful by attempting to pry the arms and legs away from one another to initiate a PNF.

Hopefully these tips help to bring your rear back in gear for a healthier back side!

Enjoyed this article? Read Fluffy Buttocks 101.



Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

After studying yoga, movement, and the human body for over twenty years, I created Yoga Tune Up® as a simple way to restore my body and mind, keeping me balanced and free of pain. Using a specific and unique set of poses, movements and self massage tools, you too can LIVE BETTER IN YOUR BODY WITH YOGA TUNE UP®.

 

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