Welcome to Movement Mondays, your weekly tip and tutorial to bring more movement, alignment and self-care into your everyday life. You can also find your weekly dose of movement love on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Just click on the links below!
Raise your hand if you have tight shoulders! I know as a yoga teacher, shoulders and hips are usually the main requests for moving when people come to class. We can spend a lot of time stretching our arms, doing backbends and feel like we are achieving shoulder mobility. And you are. To a point.
Yet there is one thing that I see frequently in most people when they work on their shoulders (which to be more accurate, what we are really working on are those tight chest muscles that are restricting your shoulder mobility.) is a sneaky little movement that gives the appearance of mobility but is really just smoke and mirrors.
Let's try it right now, lift your arms over your head and interlace your fingers turning the palms inside out. Reach up, stretch... mmmm... doesn't that feel good? But hold on a minute! Keep your arms reaching up and while you do that, notice what your ribcage is doing? Are the front of your ribs lifting up and out? Probably.
Let's try it again. First drop your ribs so that they are aligned overtop of your pelvis, not thrusting out. Now interlace your fingers and reach your arms over your head ONLY TO THE POINT WHERE YOUR RIBS DO NOT LIFT! If that doesn't really make sense and you can't quite sense if your ribs are moving or not, try it in a mirror. Another way to try is lift your arms over your head without thinking about the ribs, just reach up with the fingers interlaced as high as you can. Now try to drop your ribs over your pelvis while your arms are above you. You will see the arms come down a bit (or a lot). Cool hey?!
If we alway practice shoulder opening with that rib thrust, then we are bypassing a wonderful opportunity for real change where it is needed in your muscles surrounding the shoulders. Choose instead to be mindful of your ribs and only reaching the arms as far as they can go without the ribcage lifting up to "help" out. I call this the sweet spot: that magical place where you have maintained your skeletal alignment and now your muscles can really stretch into that space for lasting change.
Another way to try finding your shoulder's sweet spot is lying down. This way you will have the floor beneath you to help you keep track of your ribs and actually feel when and if they lift of the floor. Check out the video below for a short and sweet demonstration. The first two attempts have an exaggerated rib thrust to highlight the action more. The last two, watch my ribcage and you will see very little movement and the difference in position in my arms compared to how far back they can get with the ribs doing most of the moving for them.
Enjoy! Share! And feel free to leave your comments below.