Yoga Anatomy: 4 Steps to Facilitated Shoulder Stretching in Gomukhasana
Article At A Glance
The shoulder is the body’s most mobile joint, made of four separate joints. Dr. Ray Long shows how to promote shoulder mobility while maintaining stability with this facilitated stretch in Cow Face Pose.
|Today’s post illustrates some of the shoulder biomechanics in Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) and some simple steps that can help to increase the range of motion of the lower-side arm through a facilitated stretch of the shoulder external rotators. Please note that persons with certain conditions of the shoulder, including arthritis and instability, should avoid extremes of range of motion (as in Gomukhasana), as this can aggravate their condition. Always, in your particular case, consult your healthcare provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program.
The Basic Science Behind Gomukhasana Stretches
The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. It combines four separate joints: the glenohumeral, acromioclavicular, sternoclavicular, and scapulathoracic joints. All four joints contribute to shoulder movement in a “coupled” fashion—that is, movement occurs via a combination of individual joints. The limitation at any of the joints forming the shoulder can impair movement.
As with all of the articulations in the body, mobility, and stability of the shoulder are determined by three factors: the bone shape, the capsuloligamentous structures, and the muscular stabilizers. The majority of shoulder movement is from the glenohumeral joint. This is a shallow ball and socket that is held in place by a capsule with ligaments and a series of muscles.
Limited movement of the shoulders can be caused by a number of factors, including the following:
1. Arthritis (usually affecting the glenohumeral joint)
2. Tight capsuloligamentous structures
3. Tight muscles
How to Deepen Shoulder Flexibility in Gomukhasana
This practice focuses the Drishti on the lower arm in Gomukhasana and uses a facilitated stretch of the infraspinatus, teres minor, and posterior portion of the deltoid to allow deepening of the pose. A belt connects the upper and lower arms.
These steps are repeated once to deepen the stretch. Do not attempt to attain your maximum in one practice. Rather, build your flexibility over time with consistent, gentle practice.
The key to this technique is to press the back of your hand into your back while drawing down against the belt. Gradually increase the amount of force you use to press the hand into the back, and do not exceed 20 percent of your maximum. This is a facilitated stretch. It works with the Golgi tendon organ to create relaxation of the muscles that are stretching in the lower side of the shoulder. Use the upper arm to gently draw the lower arm further up the back.
More Shoulder Anatomy From Ray Long MD and YogaUOnline – Shoulder Biomechanics in Yoga Part 1: The Subscapularis Muscle.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Bandha.
Images courtesy of Daily Bandha.
Author Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Ray graduated from The University of Michigan Medical School with post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, The University of Montreal, and Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.
3d Graphic Designer / Illustrator Chris Macivor has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years. He is a graduate of Etobicoke School of the Arts, Sheridan College, and Seneca College. Chris considers himself to be equally artistic and technical in nature. As such, his work has spanned many genres, from film and television to video games and underwater imagery.