integrating hand to shoulder

by julee snyder

We have now explored many of the key anatomical points from the hand to the shoulder and how they relate to yoga asana. We began balancing how we distribute the weight through our hands noticing how our choices, or habits, translate further up the limb into the torso.  Today I will begin to highlight certain key relationships of the hand to the shoulder.

These connections come from the Body-Mind Centering work.  First, the palm of the hand is related to the subscapular fossa, the anterior surface of the shoulder blade; and the back of the hand is related to the posterior surface of the shoulder blade.  The thumb relates to the coracoid process.  The pointer finger relates to the collar bone.  The middle finger connects to the center of the shoulder socket, the ring finger to the spine of the scapula, while the little finger relates to the lateral border.

Eight Tadasanas
Pause for a moment and come into tadasana, mountain pose.  1) Imagine water pouring across your shoulder blades, as you roll them back and down, and imagine that water dripping from your fingertips as you add the slightest little reach.  Feel the palms soft, open and full.  2) Bring the hands together in namaskar, prayer position.  Pressing equally through the full length of each finger, feel how this integrated the front and back of the chest and allows you to feel midline.  3) Now bring the hands overhead with the palms and armpits facing forward.  Let the two mirror one another, both softly yawning open.  4) Then turn the palms to face each other from the armpits.  Hold each of these positions for a few breaths to feel how the hand position relates to the shoulder blades, the chest, ribcage and the breath.  5) Now interlace your fingers and turn your palms up to the sky.  6) Steeple the hands and allow the the upper arms to lift as they draw close to the ears. 7) Bring the hands behind your back, holding the elbows as you spread the colar bones and softly knit the base of the ribcage.  8) Lastly, if you can, come into namaskar with the hands behind the back.  If there is any strain, modify or return to hold elbows or wrist.  As you do these, maintain a connection through your body to the earth through your legs.

Another great place to feel many of these connections is plank.  Come into a modified plank with the knees down and all of your weight on the outside of your hand.  Notice how there is little support for the front of your chest and all of the strain goes into the back of your chest.  Now do plank again with all of the weight on the inside of your hand.  What do you notice?   Do plank with the weight equally distributed through the hand and notice how this balances the inside and outside of your wrists, elbows, shoulders and arms, as well as the front and back of your shoulder girdle.  Continue to explore these connections in all of your poses, especially weight bearing poses.  But also begin to look for these connections in non-weight bearing poses.  How does the spread of the collar bones support your reach in warrior two, for example.

When looking at the pelvis and the pelvic floor, we began to see the significance of relating each side of the pelvis to its respective foot.  The same can be said for the hand to the same side shoulder girdle, thoracic inlet, and even the same side ribcage and thoracic diaphragm.  Begin to explore this concept on your own and we will revisit it when we talk about the body’s various horizontal supports, or diaphragms.

Happy practicing!