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Monday, May 11, 2015

Tip of the Week: Keep Your Shoulders Away From Your Ears

As part of the Bikram dialogue, we are constantly told to keep our shoulders away from our ears. By bringing awareness to the position of the shoulders and adjusting them for optimal position, you will find comfort that may have previously been difficult to achieve. Many of us hold tension in the shoulders, often without realizing it. Poor posture and stress are common contributors to shoulder tension. The result: chronic tightening of the shoulders and a forward slump. (Check your posture while driving or typing on the computer and you’ll recognize the forward slump.)

Proper shoulder position is often overlooked during our practice due to the focus required to simply get into each posture and then maintain it. But if you take a moment to adjust the shoulders once in each pose, your level of comfort will increase. Keep in mind this one simple adjustment: Broadening the shoulders. Almost every asana can benefit from broadening the shoulders.

To broaden the shoulders, feel them move away from each other in an outward direction, and feel the heart open as the chest lifts slightly. Then, move the shoulders down away from the ears. Important to note, be sure you do not pinch the shoulders back. The movement of the shoulders away from each other is the best way to ensure the shoulders remain broad.

To effectively relax your shoulders, you need to focus on your shoulder blades (scapula) sliding down your back. The muscle that anchors the blades is the bottom part of the trapezius muscle. You also want to feel your collar bone (clavicle) widening and the scapula sliding slightly toward one another. The end effect is an open chest with relaxed shoulders and neck. Nothing should feel pinched or gripped. Imagine the scapula is a slippery bar of soap sliding up and down the back. 

From the very first breathing exercise Pranayama, as your elbows come up, your shoulders should be down. In every single posture from there on out, your shoulders should be down and away from your ears. Introduce this movement to each pose in your practice, and you will find a new sense of ease you didn’t realize you had. Enjoy!

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