Fiona Stang is a Level II Authorized Ashtanga teacher and director of Vancouver based Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver. She has been teaching in Vancouver Mysore style yoga for the last 15 years. You can learn more about her and Mysore yoga at Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver
Fiona: When you've been practicing for a while sometimes you're going to notice that some of the ghosts of your past, i.e. old injuries, old little tweaks. Depending what you did in your life, usually you have to work through them and this is a normal part of practice. It's okay. Do what you love to do, but make sure that the practice is used as a therapeutic tool, so that if you're doing other things you're supporting your body. Francesca's going to share her story on what she did in her younger years of life.
Francesca: When I was really little one of the first kind of sports that I tried when I was about four, I started hitting tennis balls around and as soon as I could hold a racket I was playing. And I did that for many, many years. It's interesting when you are kind of in those formative growth years when you are doing something that's so one sided like soccer and tennis, and things like that, your body grows around that sport and I didn't realize I had kind of uneven shoulders in the sense that my right shoulder's more mobile than my left.
Fiona: For people with tight shoulders, this can be a really therapeutic place if I just give her a bit of support into her shoulder and she gathers her elbow in. This is more relaxed for her, and this is important for her given the history of the shoulders. So if you have some shoulder stuff this might be a great place to work. You can see that she's really weighting into her hands, and she's sharing the weight between her feet and her hands, which is giving her bandha, and this is giving her protection for her shoulders. If I have her do the opposite and straighten her arms and pull this out, can you see how some tension's created here? Right here I can really feel the tension coming in, and this isn't going to serve her, given her history of the tighter shoulders.
Does that feel all right? You can see how strong she is, I can't even shake her, but basically I'm just working that connection of plugging the shoulder in, which is going to be very therapeutic for someone who's having that rotator cuff injury or having issues with their shoulders. I can just let her plug in and I can just scaffold her and hold her in place.
I can even do a double one like this, and this can be really nice. She's plugging her shoulders in, and she's just getting that support into her serratus. In back-bends, I like the idea of plugging the shoulders in for people who are having shoulder sensitivities. So, if Francesca raises her hands straight up she can take them and reach them towards the ceiling, and then can she plug her shoulders into the floor. Right now she's plugging them in, and she can do that once more. I can even give her some support.
So, reaching up, and then she can plug them in. If you're alone don't worry, just plug them in like this, that's fine. She can feel that. Than she's going to bend her elbows like this. Now, we don't always have someone to help us, but to help her I could really plug in. I'm releasing, just let the shoulder go, just let it fall out. Plug it in, and then draw it back in, okay? And she can feel that. And then the other side. I know that this side that bothers her more from her tennis, so I'm going to let it release. I'm going to plug it in, and then I'm going to draw it in. I'm just going to hold it there. Since this is the side that sometimes bothers her, as she rises up to her back-bend, I can just keep holding in. You can see her elbows are parallel here, my knee isn't really holding her back, and when she's ready she's just going to lift up. Good. Then she's going to slowly work to straighten those arms, and as she begins to straighten them this is going to happen over time, this is going to keep plugging in. You can feel it, and I'm just trying to keep feeding that into kind of that nice place so it's plugged in the body, so it's not stretching out and escaping. It's like pranic leaks. Sometimes the prana's leaking out through our shoulders. We're trying to keep the prana drawn in. Then she's going to exhale and come down.
Downward Dog can be challenging, again, if you're having shoulder rotator cuff situations happening. One thing that can feel really supportive if you have an extra person, is just to help you plug in your shoulders. So, I'm reaching under and I'm just plugging in, and just giving her a bit of traction. For someone with a shoulder injury this just takes up some of the slack. Again, if you are compromised in your shoulders, remember that. Take practice. Keep practicing. Don't over-strain. Don't make yourself worse off. I always like to think when you start practice, when you finish practice, you should not feel worse. You should feel the same, or you should feel better when you're working through some kind of injury like a shoulder, like a back, knee, whatever it is. Just make sure that you're working your baseline and you're finding what's therapeutic for you, and I can assure you that with practice, if you just keep showing up and get the support that you need, it will go away, and you'll be moving on back to your very normal practice.