The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body but, unfortunately, that also makes it relatively unstable and vulnerable to injury. Unlike the hip—(our other ball-and-socket joint), the shoulder socket is relatively shallow. The shoulder therefore relies heavily on the strength of the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments for stability. We also need to balance the strength of these supporting structures, that include the rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis), so that they can work synergistically to allow for proper movement patterns and optimal range of motion.
SHOULDER STABILITY YOGA POSES
In yoga, we have a number of poses that improve the stability of the shoulder joint, from every angle. These include Plank, Side Plank, Upward Facing Plank, Downward Facing Dog, Upward Facing Dog, Four-Limbed Staff Pose, Wheel and Crow. We can hold these postures for several breaths at a time (an isometric contraction) and transition between postures eg. Plank to Four-Limbed Staff Pose (a concentric-eccentric contraction), to build and maintain integrated shoulder strength.
ALIGNMENT AND INTEGRATION
Good alignment, as well as moving mindfully, with control, are crucial for effectively strengthening and re-balancing the shoulder joint, to ensure its continued proper function. This involves integrating the shoulder muscles to work together, as well as with the core, to support the joint in weight-bearing poses.
BEST TIME TO TRAIN SHOULDER STABILITY
The best times to work on your shoulder stability are in the morning, to set you up for proper movement patterns throughout the day and before any exercise that could benefit from activating the shoulder musculature, including, surfing, swimming, tennis, golf, martial arts, cycling and lifting weights. Spending 15 minutes working on your shoulder stability, combined with a focus on the breath, will prepare your upper body for exercise, reduce your risk of injury and noticeably improve your athletic performance. It may also help to alleviate pain if you are recovering from muscle imbalance in the shoulders or a rotator cuff injury.
Please ensure that you do not practice any movements that cause you pain. You can always take a modification for the challenging postures, to reduce the intensity.