The Arm Hangs from the Shoulder.


I have done most of my learning through a series of eureka moments where I read, see or say something and a world of past info comes into focus. One of those moments was reading the following line from Lulu Sweigard’s book Human Movement Potential:

Under any circumstances, holding the shoulders in a particular position will only reduce the flexibility of the shoulder girdle. Lack of flexibility of the shoulder girdle always interferes with both flexibility of the spine and freedom of movement of the ribs in breathing.

The shoulder girdle is structurally different from the pelvis to allow for greater freedom of the arms and shoulders. The pelvis is a solid structure with the two hip bones connected together through the sacrum and the sacrotuberous ligament. The pelvis basically moves as one piece. The shoulder girdle lacks the sacrum type bone at the back and is connected to the spine only through the rhomboid muscles of the upper back. Each shoulder-blade is free to move independently of the other.

We need to learn to let our arms and shoulders hang. This concept is anathema to most people. The idea that we should stand up straight by lifting our chest and opening our shoulders backwards is painfully engrained into our culture.

What we want to do is stand up straight with our bones stacked correctly one on top of the other so that the bones can bear most of our weight. The bones are connected to each other by ligaments but the resting tone of our muscles determines the skeletons ability to be upright successfully.

I start most of my yoga classes with tadasana, which is the attempt to stand up straight. That is an active version of standing where the muscles engage to be straight. In life we are doing the passive version of tadasana endlessly during the course of a day. The resting tone of our muscles determines the quality of our posture.

This is a major conundrum as we try to develop our bodies successfully. You want to let your arms hang from the shoulder girdle but you also want them to hang with correct alignment. The next post will cover the shoulder blades and what we need muscularly to let the arms hang successfully.

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9 Comments
  1. Eve Gentry’s image was one of five horizontals and five verticals of the body.
    Horizontals are head, shoulders, pelvis, knees while the verticals are head, two arms and two legs. Float the horizontals and hang the verticals. Great imagery for clients to work with posture. Thanks for the post, Great to share with clients.

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