Level 1 Group Class: Strength and Mobility of the Shoulders

The Shoulder Blade
In this class we are working with the shoulder blades, the ribs underneath and the muscles around them. We need to find strength around the shoulder blade by creating a seal between shoulder blade and back. This seal happens both from pressing the shoulder blade forward onto the ribcage, but also by expanding the ribs back into the shoulder blade. Sealing the shoulder blades does not mean pinching them together. If the space between them (the rhomboids and trapezius) grips, then they will not be able to move with the arms, which they need to do for proper mobility of the shoulder. Throughout the class keep the back of the neck and the space between the shoulder blades soft, even when the arms are behind the back. Find support for the arms not by tensing the upper back, deltoids and neck, but by expanding and lifting the ribcage.

The Sequence

Reclined Hug
• Lie on the back with the feet on the floor and the knees pointing up.
• Wrap the arms around the chest to clasp the shoulder blades.
• Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, softening and widening the back from the tailbone to to back of the skull.
• Change the crossing of the arms and hold for the same amount of time.

All Fours into Child’s Pose
• Rock back and forth between All Fours and Child’s Pose, exhale back and inhaling forward.
• Seal the hands into the mat.
• Observe and allow the shoulder blades to slide along the back: moving forward with the arms as you go into Child’s Pose, sliding back down towards the tailbone as you go back to All Fours.

Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Observe and allow the same movement as you make the transition from the first pose to the second.

Reclined Chest Opener
• Lie back in Shavasana (Corpse Pose).
• Raise the right arm overhead and place the left hand on the top of the chest just below the right collarbone.
• As you inhale, reach strongly through the arm.
• As you exhale, keep reaching through the arm, fixing it in place, and press the chest down into the floor.
• Expand the back ribs on the right into the shoulder blade and the floor.
• Do this for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Child’s Pose
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Seal the hands into the floor, the shoulder blades into the back and the back into the shoulder blades as you transition through each of these poses.

Block Lifts Over a Roll
• Roll a mat up and lie back over it with the roll across the bottom of the shoulder blades so that the shoulders are not all the way down on the floor. Adjust the position of the roll to make the neck comfortable.
• Hold onto a block (a foam block is a little easier than a wooden block) between both hands and reach the block up towards the ceiling.
• Seal the shoulder blades into the back and the back into the shoulder blades.
• Slowly bring the arms and block up and over the head to the floor. Allow the shoulder blades to move with the block, keeping the strong seal. Make sure the block doesn’t wobble from side to side. If it does, re-trace that part of the arc to make the movement as smooth as possible.
• With the arms alongside the ears, reach the arms and legs away from each other.
• Brace the back into the roll and slowly lift the block back up without jerking or wobbling.
• Repeat this two or three times.

Child’s Pose
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)
• Come into the pose through Utthita Hastasana (arms out to the side).
• Inhale bring the arms up to shoulder height with the palms facing down.
• Exhale, turn the palms, elbows and biceps up.
• Pause here and stretch evenly from the upper back and the top chest, pulling the wrists away from each other.
• Exhale and lift the arms overhead, allowing the shoulder blades to move with the arms.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)
• As the arms grow tired expand and lift from the ribcage to support the shoulders.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog pose)

“Up and Over” chest stretches
• Hold onto a belt with the hands wide apart.
• Inhale and bring the arms up over head. Exhale, bring the arms down behind the back.
• Inhale and bring the arms up overhead. Exhale, bring the arms down in front.
• Repeat this for a minute or two.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) chest opener
• Put a shoulder-width belt around the biceps just above the elbows.
• Bend the knees and lean forward, resting the abdomen on the thighs,
• Exhale and bring the arms overhead. Start with the elbows bent. Straighten them after a few breaths.
• Reach through the arms, but allow gravity to do most of the work for you.
• Try and clear the upper arms away from the back of the armpit to open the chest.

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) table top variation
• Hands on blocks.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Feet on blocks.
• Hold onto a belt around the ankles.

Reclined Glute Stretch with one ankle on the opposite thigh

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Fold blankets for a gentle lift under the trunk.

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