Updated: Dec 6, 2019
The shoulder blades can move in many directions, and getting them to move with more ease is the absolute best way to improve shoulder health, in my opinion. I always include these movements in my yoga classes, and practice them all the time outside of class.
So, what am I doing here? Retraction, protraction, elevation and depression.
Real English, please:
Retraction = bringing together
Protraction = moving apart
Elevation = rising up
Depression = pulling down
Turn this Functional Movement into Yoga! Breathe in as you bring your shoulder blades up and as you pull your chest forward. Exhale on the downward and chest closing movements. Move slowly and bring your awareness to your breathing and the feeling of the shoulder blades gliding.
Your shoulder blades can move in other directions, too, but let's start with this. I find it easiest with my arms in the cactus position, but if you don't want to look like a weirdo in public, you can do it with your arms hanging at your sides. Once you master it without weight, try it in table top (on your hands and knees) or in plank. You could even grab some small dumbells, as long as you keep the work out of your arms and isolated in your back.
In addition to adding more functional mobility, you'll help loosen your tight upper traps, and strengthen those weak muscles between your shoulder blades (the rhomboids and the mid and lower traps).
I've been doing this every day for over a year and have seen huge improvements in terms of reduced pain and inflammation, more mobility and strength.
Try these simple shoulder blade movements the next time you're waiting for the bus, waiting for yoga class to start, or feeling tightness creep up into your shoulders.
Comment below and let me know how it goes!