Unkinking the shoulders and upper back.
The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and is used in many different activities, from reaching for an object on a tall shelf, raising your arm to use a handrail, or carrying heavy bags of shopping. Because of this, it’s understandable that it may get tweaked accidentally or feel a little sore from overuse.
The shoulder itself is a complex band of eight muscles that protect the shoulder joint. There’s a lot going on when it comes to the shoulder, so stretching the whole area to release tension is necessary to ensure smooth and comfortable movement.
Many people are weak and tight through their shoulders—thanks to long days at desk jobs, behind steering wheels, and in front of electronic devices, which can lead to rounded shoulders and a neck that juts forward.
Because shoulder musculature is smaller and shallower than hip musculature, we need to proceed with more caution when strengthening the area around this joint—especially if we don’t do any other strengthening practices.
The intention of our practice is to increase mobility; the intersection of flexibility and control. Flexibility will allow ease of movement into a shape but not necessarily the ability to hold it with control. To build control, we need to use movements that will strengthen the muscles around joints to facilitate their optimal range of movement. We will also build strength for those who need it, but also maintain range of movement.
It’s important to emphasise that our brains don’t have to work hard when activities are familiar, so we naturally gravitate towards movements that are easy and familiar. As we explore the upper back and shoulder sequence, which may be quite unfamiliar to you, be aware of this tendency, perhaps setting an intention to increase curiosity, engagement, and attention to detail each time you repeat an activity—both within a practice and over time.
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