Lesson of the Month #25 (4/99)

For safety and best results, read instructions before doing lessons!

Shoulder Opener

Integrating shoulders and arms into movements like reaching, throwing, turning objects with the hands, or using tools, even while bending and twisting.

Works with:
Differential rotation of wrist, forearm, upper arm, and shoulder; movements of shoulders relative to neck, chest, spine, and back.

Part 1.

1. Sit down on the floor on a firm cushion (like a meditation pillow, or "zafu"), so your knees are on the floor, and lower than your hip joints...your feet are on the floor in front of you, or are crossed in half-lotus (one ankle resting on the floor, the other on the opposite thigh or calf)...rest your hands palm down on your thighs near your knees, with the fingers pointing in the direction of your knees...from this position repeat a microscopic movement of sliding your right hand a little further along the thigh toward your knee, and letting it come back...attend to how this tiny movement involves your arm, wrist, elbow, upper arm, shoulder, and torso...and let it go and rest.

2. Repeat #1, now making the movement larger...slide your right hand down over the right knee toward the floor, and come back...your shoulder moves forward each time...press the heel of your hand slightly into the leg each time you push the hand away (awakens something in your shoulder)...your body turns a little to the left each time...does your face turn right, left, or stay in the center?...try it each way a few times...and rest.

3. Same position...rest right hand palm down on right knee...and repeat a movement of rolling the hand palm up, and back to palm down...go slowly...does it make a difference if you extend the fingers while you do it, rolling the hand back and forth on the blade edge of the hand, with the thumb tracing an arc?...how is the rest of your arm involved?...what does your elbow do?...and rest.

4. Repeat #3...but this time each time you roll the hand palm up, bring the elbow into contact with your right thigh, and slide the elbow and forearm down the thigh toward your knee, so the open hand extends into the space in front of your knee...and return...repeat it many times...you bend forward each time...where does your head go?...and rest.

5. Same position...this time slide the hand, palm down against your thigh, up the top of your thigh toward the crease where your thigh and pelvis meet in the front...sit up a little straighter, so you can lengthen the arm...then push down gently onto the upper thigh with your right hand...and repeat it...your shoulder lifts each time as your draw the hand toward you on the thigh, and you push down into the leg a little, just enough to feel how you do it, from your shoulder and through the center of your chest...your head will want to turn...and rest.

6. Combine #4 and #5, so you slide the hand down your thigh and outward away from your knee while you rotate the forearm palm up...and then roll the forearm palm down, and slide the hand up to your pelvis, and push down...go slowly back and forth a numebr of times...and let it go and rest. Just sit...notice the different sensations on the right and left sides...is the breath different on the two sides?...and rest.

7. Repeat #1 through #6 on the left side.

Part 2.

8. Lie on left side...rest head on thin pad (1-2"), or on your left arm...point right elbow toward the ceiling, and touch middle fingertip to point of shoulder....as if to make a little chicken wing...And keeping finger on or near shoulder, move elbow forward and back in arc as far as is easy and comfortable...let head, shoulder, and upper body move to make it bigger and easier...you could support your head in your left hand as right elbow goes toward the floor behind you...let left ribs be soft against the floor...and rest.

9. Same position as #8...this time slowly flap the elbow up and down in line with your body, like a wing...lift head slightly away from support each time the elbow lifts toward head, so you get taller and longer...and lower your face as the elbow goes toward your waist...and rest.

10. Same position...this time explore tracing out a circle with the elbow ...forward ...up ...back ...and down ...gradually make it bigger by letting your upper body and face roll forward and back with it...when you reach up, lengthen your body and let your waist and perhaps your head come a little away from the floor....you arch your back and feel long and tall as you roll toward your back...and change directions....and rest on back...notice differences between your right side and your left side...

11. Repeat #8 through #10 on the other side...rest on your back and notice the changes in your back and shoulders...

12. Come again to sitting, and review some movements from Part 1...then come up to standing and walk around, observing new sensations...