Why 'drop your shoulders' is a terrible yoga cue.

One of my great, great frustrations as a yoga teacher is dealing with the legacy of questionable yoga cues. I have injuries in my own body from dodgy cues given - and faithfully obeyed - in my early yoga years.

And I see far to many injuries, especially in shoulders, from dodgy yoga cues that are still being given today.

why you shouldn't drop your shoulders in yoga

A decade or 15 years ago, fair enough. Nobody in the yoga community knew all that much about human movement and we were all a bit stuck in the 'I do this because my teacher told me to' rut.

But now? There's a lot of really good anatomy and biomechanics training out there. Plus a growing awareness that while yoga may be a spiritual practice, it's not very useful if you damage physical bodies in the pursuit of spiritual aims.

A lot of the yoga we practice these days emphasises bearing weight through our arms (and therefore, our shoulder girdles). Which, strictly speaking, we aren't really designed to do. Ever notice how much bigger your pelvic and leg bones are than the bones in your arms and shoulders? Yeah, because we are designed to stand on those legs.

This makes it even more important to get the mechanics of your shoulders right.

How to use your shoulders in yoga

Dropping your shoulderblades isn't always the right thing to do.

Descending your scapulae when your arms are in the air is silly. It creates uneven joint space in your glenohumeral joint (a.k.a your shoulder joint) and destabilises your whole shoulder girdle. 

Your arms are made from the same stuff as your shoulderblades: when you were developing in utero, your shoulderblades came first, and your arms sprouted from them.

So it's not useful to treat your shoulderblades - which are basically part of your arms - as though they are part of your spine. 

I love how, in this picture, you can clearly see my shoulderblades following my arms.

That's desirable. I promise! 

I made a video to explain what SHOULD be happening in your shoulders. 

(This is actually an 'Ask Nadine' video, usually exclusively for folks on the mailing list, but I get this question so often I decided to make it public). Also, I have no idea why I have those two red dots on my neck. Reverse vampire maybe?

Here ya go: