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Tag Archives: Shoulders

Summer of Core Day 22: Forearm Plank Burn

Don’t be scared by the title. Today’s move is strenuous, BUT we have been going for 22 days! We should be getting very strong.

So…staying with forearm plank, today we’re adding in some leg moves to make hanging out in plank a little more dynamic. We’ll work a little into our obliques as well.

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in your strong, straight forearm plank.
  • Inhale, lift your right leg.
  • Exhale, pull your right knee to the outside of your right arm.
  • Inhale, stretch your right leg back out.
  • Exhale, lower it to the ground.
  • Switch sides.
  • Repeat as many rounds as you can handle, trying to keep a strong, straight plank throughout.
  • Rest in child’s pose.

A Word on Shoulders

Our shoulders are made up of lots of muscles and ligaments and a ball and socket joint, which can be very unstable. Think about shoulder dislocations, or rotator-cuff tears—not uncommon!

There are a lot of ways to strain or injure your shoulders. I still suffer from an old high school volleyball injury to my right shoulder, which gets irritated when I don’t keep my shoulder strong or in good alignment.

Forearm plank is a really great way to strengthen the muscles in your shoulders. But if you start to feel like your form is falling apart, like you’re sagging, and the integrity of your alignment begins to falter, come out of the pose and rest. There’s no reason to push beyond your limits.

Always listen to your body!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 21: Dolphin Push-Ups

Today we continue to build on our strong forearm plank with Dolphin Push-ups. You may have done some of these in class with me, or maybe you’ve done them somewhere else. If you have, you know that these not only target the abs, they really work your shoulders as well.

For me, breath is key to this move, as I use it to flow between Dolphin and Forearm Plank.

Watch the lovely and talented Susan Leslie demonstrate below.

Susan teaches at 4:30 today at Soul! Check out her class…maybe she’ll do some Dolphin Push-ups?

Let’s Do It

  • Come to your strong forearm plank, knees lifted.
  • Walk your feet in a little bit to get your hips high, but not all the way into a full Dolphin pose.
  • Inhale.
  • Exhale, begin to lower your body, stretching your nose over your wrists, landing in forearm plank.
  • Inhale, lift your hips, pressing your forearms into the ground.
  • Repeat five to 10 rounds.
  • Rest in child’s pose.

Keep in Mind

  • Keep your core engaged throughout, belly pulled to spine.
  • Move slowly with your breath, full inhale, full exhale.
  • Drop your hips low enough so you are flat in your forearm plank.
  • Don’t let your shoulders come farther forward than your elbows.

This move is in no way easy, but it’s such a great one for building strength that will come in handy for the rest of your yoga practice, and whatever other activities you do. I find that when I’m spending a lot of time on my bike, especially my triathlon bike with its aero bars, Dolphin push-ups help me build the stability in my shoulder girdle and core I need to maintain good form.

Hope you have fun doing this one!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 20: Sphinx Roll Up

This move is one of my all-time favorite core exercises because you can go slowly and deliberately and really feel what’s going on. Plus, you get a really nice chest and shoulder opener in the process.

If you’ve never done this one before, make sure to go slowly and methodically for maximum benefit.

Let’s Do It

  • From forearm plank, come onto your belly. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms extended on the ground, palms flat on the ground.
  • Roll your shoulders back and extend your chest forward into sphinx pose.
  • Gaze straight ahead.
  • Inhale and expand more in your chest, feel your belly button.
  • Slowly exhale, start to drop your gaze toward your belly. As you do, lift your belly off the ground, then your hips and then your thighs until you’re in a kneeling forearm plank.
  • For an extra challenge, tuck your toes under and lift your knees into full forearm plank.
  • Inhale in forearm plank.
  • Exhale, begin to slowly roll down onto your thighs, hips, belly, lifting your gaze and returning to sphinx.
  • Continue through three to five rounds, moving slowly with your breath and feeling the articulation of your spine the whole way up and down.

Here’s Susan Leslie giving a fantastic demonstration of Sphinx Roll Up for us. Susan is a gifted kids yoga and vinyasa yoga instructor. She teaches at Soul Wednesdays at 4:30 and a kids class at Barre Energy on Thursdays at 4 p.m. If you have elementary-aged kids, Susan’s class is a wonderful way to immerse your kids in a playful yoga practice.

I hope you’re having fun with this month of core! I certainly am enjoying it. Please let me know if you have questions, comments, ideas. I love to hear your feedback! Come to Soul at 9 a.m. and/or 4:30 and practice with me!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 16: Side Plank T-Flows

I made this one up. Well, I’m sure I picked some of it up somewhere. But I certainly made up the name. It’s not so much side plank as it is a chance to utilize your obliques in a new way.

Here’s Katy for a second day in a row demonstrating the move.

Thanks again Katy for being a wonderful model and dedicated student!

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in kneeling side plank with your right knee down and left arm to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift from your left arm so your right arm lifts off the ground and both arms form a “T”, palms facing down, arms out to the sides, torso stacked over hips.
  • Exhale, float your left hand to your left thigh. Reach your right arm straight up.
  • Inhale, extend toward the sky, stretching from your right knee through the whole right side of your body up to your finger tips.
  • Exhale, float your right arm back to the ground with control, left arm to the sky, returning to side plank.
  • Repeat this flow five to ten times. Switch sides.

Alignment Tune-Up

  • In kneeling side plank, make sure your bottom arm is stacked beneath your shoulders, so there’s a long, straight line running from your bottom hand through your chest and shoulders and up your lifted arm.
  • Bring your bottom knee directly under your bottom hip for optimal stability.
  • Extend your top leg straight out so the foot is in line with your bottom knee. You should feel like your body is in one singular plane.
  • Engage your extended thigh and keep your top hip lifted, core engaged.

Why Flow?

We primarily practice vinyasa yoga, meaning yoga that flows with the breath. It becomes a moving meditation, which can be very effective in clearing the mind and reducing stress from our hectic, daily lives.

“The Western world has become a seated society, which is why vinyasa yoga is so important: its orientation is breath and movement, and research shows that increased movement in a seated society is absolutely essential for health. Vinyasa yoga gets us moving.” ~ Eddie Modestini, renowned yoga instructor and student of BKS Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I hope that this flow and yesterday’s flow will get you moving today and you’ll find some joy and freedom in the practice.

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 14: Spinal Balance

Today’s pose, spinal balance, is one that takes core strength in the back muscles as well as the front for stability.


Spinal balance, dandayamna bharmasana in Sanskrit, is also known as balancing table in some yoga circles. It’s often called a beginner’s pose, but in my experience, it takes a lot of body awareness and control to execute and can be a challenge to hold.

I love using it as a warm-up, because it helps you get a feel for elongating your body while connecting to your core. In my classes I often incorporate it into a flow to get the breath linked to movement. But today, we are going to break down this pose and get into proper alignment for optimum benefit.

Let’s Do It

  • From hands and knees (use a blanket or a doubled-up mat under your knees if they’re sensitive), bring your belly button in towards your spine to firm your abs and flatten your back.
  • Keep your gaze at the ground and draw your shoulders away from your ears for length in your neck.
  • Extend your left leg behind you, keeping toes on the ground.
  • Press through your heel to strengthen your thigh and feel strong from hip to heel.
  • Inhale, lift your leg to hip height.
  • Extend your right arm forward, turning your palm to face in, your thumb to the sky.
  • Work to keep your hips level and your abs turned on as you breathe.
  • Hold for three to five breaths. Switch sides.

Options

  • Lift your leg only, not your arm if you feel unstable or wobbly. Work on your balance and strength from here.
  • If your wrists bother you, use fists for wrists or come to your forearms.

Fine-Tune the Alignment

In class, I often see students with concave backs, their bellies dipping toward the ground and their leg and arm coming higher than shoulder or hip height. To maximize the benefits of this pose:

  • Try to keep your leg at hip level.
  • Keep your core muscles engaged to support your back and keep it flat.
  • Lift your arm just to shoulder height.
  • Think about reaching out and back, creating length rather than height.
  • Keep your gaze at the ground, your neck long.

It can be helpful to have someone watch you and tell you when you are in proper alignment or to do this in front of a full-length mirror, though you may know my thoughts on mirrors and yoga.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, if anything’s not clear or if you just want to say hi!

Have a great time with this one. Come see me in class today at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.!

~ Shoshana

 

 

Pose of the Week: Bridge Pose

Bridge PoseBridge Pose

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
(SET-too BAHN-dah)
setu = dam, dike, or bridge
bandha = lock

Feeling tight in the hips? Maybe the lower back is a little out of whack? Bridge pose can help with that! This pose is great to hold after the body is already warm or it can be used during warmup using a short, slow and flowing movement.

Getting into the Pose

Laying on the back, bend the knees and place the feet firmly on the floor. Arms are alongside the body with palms facing down.

With a deep inhale press the feet and hands into the floor and lift the hips toward the sky. Take a few breaths here working to lift the hips higher and draw the chest upward. The curve in the spine should happen mostly in the middle back (thoracic spine).

Maintain good alignment by keeping your gaze directed toward the knees and making sure the knees stay in line with the ankles.

To deepen the pose, walk the shoulders under the body slightly and clasp the hands together, palms facing inward. Lift higher, and maybe come up onto the toes or lift one leg at a time.

After slowly returning the hips to the ground, take a moment to come back to center and then bring the knees into the chest for a counter stretch.

Benefits for Athletes

  • Stretches hips
  • Stretches neck
  • Stretches chest
  • Releases stress in legs and back
  • Builds core strength
  • Brings focus in on breathing
  • Strengthens legs and glutes
  • Builds energy

Improve your Form

Knees splay out to the sides. Place a block or yoga ball between the knees and squeeze as you elevate the hips. Drawing the thighs inward and keeping the feet solidly and evenly driven into the ground will help give you good alignment in the knees and legs.

Too much pressure on the neck. In this pose, and any poses that have potential to put weight into the neck (cervical spine), pay close attention to your form. Rest your weight in the shoulders rather than on your neck or head and draw the chest upward moving drawing the hips up and forward.

 

 

 

Pose of the Week: Warrior II

Warrior II
(veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-anna)
Virabhadra = the name of a fierce warrior

Ah, Warrior II…what’s not to love about this pose?

It is perhaps one of the most practiced poses in modern yoga. You can walk in to any random class, and the chances are very high that the instructor will lead you through at least one round of Warrior II. And for good reason.

This pose oozes strength, focus and power. And what athlete wouldn’t love that?

Getting into the PoseWarrior 2

From a strong Mountain pose, step the left leg back three to four feet (about a leg’s length). Turn the left foot out so the outer edge of the foot is parallel to the back edge of the mat. The foot can be turned inward slightly, and you can play around with foot stance, but be sure that the back foot is firmly planted into the mat from the ball of the foot to the heel.

The back leg is strong, kneecap lifted. The front leg is bent.

Begin to lower the hips straight down, finding a point of challenge that you can sustain with your breath.

The arms stretch out strongly. Shoulders roll back and down, away from the ears. Shoulder blades move in closer together.

Take the gaze over the front hand.

Tuck the tailbone under and draw the belly in. Begin to lengthen the spine.

As you breathe, sink the hips on the exhale, and lengthen the spine on the inhale.

Hold for at least five breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Benefits for Athletes

  • Opens hips
  • Opens shoulders
  • Strengthens legs
  • Strengthens arms
  • Strengthens abdominals
  • Strengthens ankles and feet
  • Increases stamina

Common Misalignments & Tips to Keep Good Form

Warrior II is a strong pose, but it’s easy to fall out of alignment in the pose without knowing it. That’s why it is so important to keep the focus strong and the breath going while practicing this pose.

  • Front knee moves out of alignment. As you sink into the pose, maintain a watchful eye on that front knee so it stays in line with the ankle moving toward the middle toes. It has a tendency to creep inward. Draw the front thigh up and out to stay strong.
  • Spine is at an angle, not straight up and down. Remember that the shoulders should be stacked directly over the ribs, and the ribs stacked over the hips. To check this alignment, place your hands on your hips, find the hip bones and straighten your spine straight up. As the arms reach to either side, sink the hips straight down, not forward.
  • Pelvis tilts forward. Tuck the tailbone under, and draw the pelvic floor up, engaging the lower abdominals.
  • Shoulders tense. Warrior II can be a workout for the shoulders. Keep the arms strong, feeling the triceps engage. Roll the shoulders back and down and relax them. Breathe.
  • Back leg bends. Keep that back leg working, pressing firmly into the ground with the full back foot. Lift the back kneecap to engage the thigh. Lift the arch of the back foot and press into the heel.

There’s a lot to think about in Warrior II, and the body is working hard for you. Remember to keep the breath steady and strong to infuse this pose with energy. If the muscles tire, the breath can take over and keep you strong and focused.

Have fun!