Once you understand the anatomy and actions of the shoulder girdle, you can delve into making its parts work together more intelligently.
FIRST STEP Get acquainted with the anatomy of the shoulder girdle and the actions of its muscles by starting with Tiffany Cruikshank’s Guide to the Shoulder Girdle + Its Actions
Once you understand what you're working with, you can delve into the how the rotator cuff, serratus anterior, and rhomboid work together to create optimal shoulder stability in weight-bearing poses. Here, Tiffany Cruikshank gives us four steps to stabilize the shoulders by firing all of those muscles at once.
4 Steps to Stabilize Shoulders
- Standing with your arms out in front of you, hug the head of the arm bone down and horizontally in to the shoulder socket, engaging the subscapularis, or front rotator cuff, which can be felt in the armpit.
- Keeping the head of the arm bones hugging into their sockets, press forward through the arms and hands, engaging the teeth-like serratus along your ribs.
- Keeping the first two actions engaged, isometrically hug the hands toward one another, engaging the front of the shoulder.
- Keeping all of the actions above, now broaden the clavicles, or collarbones, to engage the back of the shoulders.
On your hands and knees in tabletop position, try these four actions again. Notice which muscles have a harder time firing and which muscles take over. Ideally all four actions would be balanced, however, for most people the tendency is that one or two will be more exaggerated.
Now Try To Do Less
Once you have a bodily understanding of the steps above, play around with doing less. Tiffany kept reiterating that there’s a finesse and subtlety to firing up these smaller stabilizing muscles, which she calls “mindfulness muscles,” because they take a more subtle awareness and mindfulness to work with. When we effort too much or create really strong actions, the bulk muscles (your deltoids, lats, pecs, and traps) that are responsible for the larger movements of the shoulders override the smaller, mindfulness muscles (your rhomboids, serratus anterior, and rotator cuff) that stabilize the individual parts of the shoulder girdle.
As you become more familiar with these actions you can start to carry them over into more and more of your practice and eventually it will become part of your natural movement patterns. However recreating your requires practice, practice, practice—and remember mindfulness is key.