shoulder alignment, what is the proper way?

Many yoga poses, from plank to headstand, require us to bear weight with our hands and shoulders, highlighting the significance of maintaining proper shoulder alignment.

Using the upper body to carry weight in poses has numerous benefits; it helps increase body awareness, develop strength in the shoulders, arms, and wrists, and enables us to enjoy fun asanas like inversions.

The structure of our upper body is not inherently designed to support the body’s total weight; therefore, understanding the anatomy and alignment of good shoulders becomes crucial for safely performing these asanas.

By gaining insights into the correct shoulder alignment, we can ensure better support and stability during our practice, reducing the risk of injuries and promoting a more rewarding yoga experience.

The structure of the shoulder

There are four joints presented in the shoulder; they are

1. The shoulder joint, also named the glenohumeral joint, is a ball-socket construction that allows for circular motion of the arm.

2. The sternoclavicular joint is between our collarbone and our sternum.

3. The acromioclavicular joint is between our scapula and clavicle.

4. The scapulothoracic joint is a “functional joint” in the middle of the scapula and our back ribs.

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What is Scapulohumeral Rhythm

shoulder alignment, what is the proper way?

Scapulohumeral rhythm refers to the coordinated movement between the glenohumeral joint and the scapulothoracic joint and also represents the interaction between the scapula and the humerus.

To let our arms move freely, these two joints must work together to achieve that. Without the scapular movement, the movement of the humerus is quite limited.

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The key to maintaining shoulder stability lies in muscles

The ball and socket joint is not intrinsically stable because the glenoid fossa is quite shallow. When the ball of the shoulder joint slips out of the socket, shoulder instability occurs. The lack of bony stability of the shoulder joint means that support must come from muscles. As a group, the rotated cuff muscles play a key role in stabilizing the shoulder joint.

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What is the rotate cuff muscle?

The rotator cuff includes four muscles that reach out and hug the humerus to the scapula, forming a cuff around the glenohumeral (GH) joint; these muscles are Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres minor, and Subscapularis. 

shoulder alignment, what is the proper way?

Rotate cuff muscle group is responsible for both stabilizing and mobilizing the shoulder joint. In various shoulder movements, including flexion, abduction, and internal and external rotations, the RC muscles keep the head of the “ball” within the “socket” to expand the range of motion and avoid mechanical obstruction.

Meanwhile, large chest and back muscles are adopted to stabilize the scapula and support our weight.

Scapular stability matters

Our scapula acts as a stable base that facilitates a huge range of motion at the shoulder. When we are bearing weights with our hands and shoulders, it is crucial to maintain the stability of the shoulder blades.

And seeking to stabilize the scapula on your back is the key to maintaining shoulder stability.

In yoga, poses with two types of spinal extension promote scapular stability.

The first kind is lying face down on the ground and working with the upper body to fight gravity; such poses include plank, cobra, bow, etc…

The second kind is facing up and using the strength of your upper body to arch the spine, and such poses include bridge, wheel, camel, fish, etc…

Establishing scapular stability helps develop optimal shoulder alignment and proper movement patterns, making your yoga practice sustainable over time.

Final Thoughts on Shoulder Alignment

As we proceed with practice, pay attention to deepen your awareness of the connection of your humerus to the scapula as well as the scapula to your back, patiently cultivate strength and stability, and through this way, build a solid foundation to prepare yourself to explore more exotic hand-balancing poses and inversions safely.