Raise your arms overhead. If you can’t extend your arms up without your arms bending or feel tension in your neck or how about scrunch your face up like you just ate something sour – then you are in for some challenges in your yoga practice! Guaranteed downward facing dog is probably not your favorite pose, but do not fear because improving your shoulder mobility and fascial elasticity in your arm lines can be done, with a few simple corrective movements.
As we know, corrective movement is all about unblocking tension and reducing compensations through better movement mechanics. This is why it is said that Yoga is 90% waste removal. Our fascia plays a significant role in integrating the systems that aid in removing waste and unwanted tension that is limiting our movement and experience on and off the mat. Many systems integrate together to achieve this, and the facial system is a large contributor.
Most injuries are connective-tissue (fascial) based, not muscular injuries (this happens after the body’s blocked energy has to go somewhere, and results in an ”ouchie”—so how do we best train to prevent and repair damage and build elasticity and resilience into the system? By listening to our body, and be reducing tension on the joints.
When we talk about shoudlering responsibility, the deep arm lines – take the front lines!
The fascia of the upper torso and arms are comprised of multiple designations (4) intertwined in the webbed matrix known as the “Deep Arm Fascial Lines.” The 4 Arm Lines run from the front and back of the axial torso to the tips of the fingers. These lines connect seamlessly into the other fascia lines particularly the Lateral, Functional, Spiral, and Superficial Front Lines.
These lines (for which we have 2 on either side of the body) are the following:
The Brachial Fascia, derived from the Pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi medially and from the deltoids laterally. It differs in thickness, being thin over the biceps brachii, but thicker where it covers the tricpes brachii and is continuous by covering the deltoids, and the pectoals group attaching above (and to) the clavicle, acromion as well as the spine of the scapula. This fascial line forms a thin, loose, membranous sheath for the muscles of the arm and is composed of fibers disposed in a circular or spiral direction, and connected together by vertical and oblique fibers.
The antebrachial fascia (or antibrachial fascia, deep fascia of forearm) is continuous with the above , as with the brachii fascia and follows from the elbow to the wrist and finger tips via the the palmar fascia; which consists of resistant fibrous tissue arranged in longitudinal, transverse, oblique, and vertical fibers and is a dense, membranous investment, which forms a general sheath for the muscles in this region.
The Arm Lines affect posture indirectly, since they are not part of the structural column; however they are integral for sensory input in response to our environment; such as examining, pushing, pulling, manipulating and interacting with our external world.
When we talk about the arm lines, you will also notice we have included the pectorals group and the latissimus dorsi as significant muscles contributing to the efficiency of shoulder mobility. These two muscular groups contribute substantially to tight “shoulders” when they too are tight, because they significantly limit shoulder flexion in overhead extension, as well as pull the shoulder into internal rotation, which can lead to kyphotic posture and forward head carriage.
Another honorable mention in shoulder limitation is the rhomboids group (sitting in between your spine and your shoulder blades). These muscles pull your shoulder blades towards the spine and promote a proud chest. If tight these muscles will prevent the scapula from movement at all.
Fortunately, there are many Yoga poses you can perform to improve your shoulder mobility and alignment in downward facing dog, shoulder stands and inversion. Try adding these shoulder openers to your home practice and move more freely:
- Myofasical release with the foam roller – ( focus on mid back and under the arm for the lats)
- Thoracic Extension with a towel or roller for chest expansion – (place along the length of the spine)
- Eagle Pose (arms) – (stretches the rhomboids)
- Cow Face Pose – (arms) – stretches the triceps, lats and shoulders)
- Bridge Pose – (passive bridge, place a block under the hips along the pelvic ridge and sacrum)
- All fours posture with reversed palms – (stretches the anterior forearms and biceps group)
- Cobra Pose – (focuses on stabilization of the spine and spinal flexion)