Shoulder blades: with freedom comes responsibility

The shoulder blades have great freedom of movement
photo: Magnus Manske

They say with freedom comes responsibility, and so it is with the shoulder girdle.  Because the shoulder blades, or scapulae, do not attach to the rib cage or spine via bone, they have a great deal of freedom and mobility.  The blades can move up, down, in, and out.  They cant rotate up or down.

When it comes to Pilates, the responsibility associated with this freedom and control comes in the form of awareness and stability.  Just as it is important to engage the abdominals before movement, it is important to stabilize the shoulder girdle before movement.  Careful attention to stabilization prevents you from taking too much tension in the neck and shoulders.  It helps you complete exercises with greater success, and it ensures that muscles are trained properly.

Here are some tips:

  1. Sit cross legged on the floor.  Put your hands on top of your head.  Now move your elbows back towards the midline of your body.  Keep this positioning and bring your arms down.  This is how it feels when your shoulder girdle is stabilized
  2. When flexing the spine, stabilize the shoulder girdle to avoid undue tension in the neck
  3. When extending the spine, begin the movement by stabilizing the spine.  Do not lead with the head or neck
  4. Review your posture in the mirror before moving.  The shoulders should not round forward, nor should they be pinched toward the spine

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