Often in classes I come across people with tight shoulders, shoulder pain or can just see shoulders rising up towards people’s ears. It’s amazing how easy it is to start tensing in the shoulder region, I should know as I do it myself if I am not conscious enough. So I am often heard saying phrases like “Relax your shoulder” or “Draw those shoulder blades down in your back”. In actual fact the correct terminology is to “stabilise your scapulae”. Your Scapulae are the wing-like bones on your upper back, commonly called your shoulder blades. Stabilizing your scapulae is as important as contracting your abs during every exercise. This will help you avoid strain through your neck and upper shoulders.
When our scapula ride up or wing out to the sides, the shoulder area is less stable. Similarly, if you draw/squeeze the scapula together on the back this too is a less stable position than when the scapula are flat on the back with the shoulders drawn down in our favoured neutral position.
To find this shoulder position think about dropping the shoulders away from the ears and allowing the shoulder blades to slide down in your back. I like to think about them being down down towards the back pockets of your jeans. In fact this analogy has really help one of my ladies who suffered very badly from hunched shoulders, so hunches that she used to walk looking down at the floor. After learning where her scapulae should be her whole posture has changed! Amazing.
It can be easy to start with the shoulder in this stable position but harder to keep them there when doing mat based Pilates. If you know you have a tendency to lose this position and tense up, then keep bringing your attention back to your shoulders. Have you tensed up? Think about not doing the move with your shoulders and neck but switching on your core more. It may also be that you need to decrease your range of motion in order to get the correct technique established first.