Shoulders take a big hit in life. Most days it’s a battle to stop hunching over the keyboard, to sit up and try to get my head free of the tortoise shell for a couple of minutes. Yoga’s a help, obviously, but that tortoise is persistent, and the neck and shoulders are the first in line when the mind’s trying to do something with all the stress that builds up over a day, week, month, year. (‘OMG shitshitshit it’s nearly 2014!’ leads to ‘OMG shitshitshit why is life not like totally easy yet?’ leads to ‘Oooh maybe if I just retreat into my shoulders and hunch up in my cave of a back, things’ll sort themselves out’ and so on).
So this weekend I went up to Heart Space Dundee for a day with Jambo. He’s a Forrest Yoga Guardian in training, and he’s in Newcastle at Jambo Yoga most of the time (when he’s not galavanting round the country doing workshops). He’s an awesome teacher. Here are five and half things I learnt about unlocking the shoulders – both your own, and another person’s.
- Get free. Unlocking the shoulders is all about freeing yourself from the stuff you no longer need to be carrying. Shrug off your stuff, and let other people carry their own. Most of the time they’re probably not aware that you’re carrying it for them, too.
- Mixing is good. Having a mixed ability class is a challenge to be relished. Also to be relished: having an assistant who knows how to give modifications and let the students who need them feel the essence of the class.
- No flying? No problem. The day doesn’t have to be about super challenging apex poses. Keep advanced students working, though: have them go straight to the pose while the beginners get set up and take five breaths – by that point the advanced people will be 12-15 breaths in and ready to move out.
- Or, point 3.5: long warm up and intelligent sequence can be delicious – especially when working at a playful distance from, rather than at, the absolute limit.
- Elbows out. Of the four muscles around the scapula we worked on, Teres Minor was the most uncomfortable. When you get deep into Teres Minor, it’s kinda sickening. It’s nice, though, to let someone in there with their elbow to get out all the unreachable crap that’s obstructing it.
- Get quiet. Get focused. Fire up the sensitivity in your hands. A good massage doesn’t need to be about whether you’re using effleurage or tapotement – the best way is to get really curious about everything that’s going on in the muscles you’re working with. Also, breathe with the patient/client/topless guy, because that’s an easy way in.