Shoulder Stability, Prana, and Embryology

Artwork by Rebecca Haseltine. Click on the image above to view more work.

Artwork by Rebecca Haseltine. Click on the image above to view more work.

The Embryological Spirals are an Important Key to Experiencing Wholeness in Body and Mind
The embryological spirals underlie our development and they remain integral to our structural health.  The embryological developmental patterns are very deep within us. They remain at the level of our earliest experiences of pranic flow. As the life force flowed…so our limbs grew. When we return, through memory and current feeling, to the level of this healthy flow of life force we become much more able to secure the health and integrity of our joints. At this early time there were no joints and the flow of prana was seamless and continuous. It still is, however, often by practicing ill-advised movements we actually disrupt this flow. We mean to be doing well. We are really trying our best. But there is so much more to the healthy flow of life force than the musculoskeletal system.

Yoga has always taken us to the level of prana flow. That is what the practice is about. By exploring the embryological streams of life force that are still flowing within we gain a window onto a healthier experience of our embodied state. Asana becomes a celebration of life force…without sacrificing any stability and support in body or mind. Our sense of self takes on a more unified feeling-sense. We begin to experience ourselves as complete wholes when we touch into this sacred level of awareness and manifestation. So much of our life is involved in fragmentary conceptual thinking and activities. Our yoga practice offers a different way of experiencing ourselves. Don’t bring a fragmentary mind to your yoga. Look underneath and see the Unity in motion.

Many of us are familiar with the sensation of flow and warmth in the marrow of our bones and how the affinity that marrow and organ have for one another creates a seamless connection through joints. In Embodyoga® we work with this integration of organ and marrow as a useful means of stabilizing joints.  Now that we are exploring the growth of the arm and leg buds at the level of the initial pranic flows we have a good window into this experience by remembering and feeling the integration of organ and marrow. I feel that the marrow continues to flow within the bones along these original embryological pathways. Although it is useful to look at the shoulder girdle therapeutically and otherwise from the perspective of adult bone and muscle, I feel we can go deeper to set the templates of pranic flow back on track. By revisiting the embryological spirals we can affect change in the present at our current anatomical level.

Finding the Embryological Spirals of the Upper Limbs
The embryological arm spirals are movements of growth. As such they are definitely not simple rotations at joints. In finding the embryological limb spirals we have to feel them developing from the central body outward. The directional movement of their growth is key. Without the directional movement they are not embryological spirals, but something else.

The arm buds begin on the back body. We feel them with our shoulders shrugged toward the back. The shoulder blades are stabilized (external rotation) onto the rib area. As the arm buds begin to grow they travel forward on the upper torso and begin to rotate inward at what is now the joint area and down toward the current region of the attachment of the deltoids on the arm. From here the spiral begins to turn outward again and travels – simply – with no further rotations all the way down the rest of the arm to the hand.

How to Do It
•    Feel for the beginning of the spiral in the back/side body at the top portion of the developing upper torso. Firm the scapula onto the back rib area. This draws the shoulder girdle toward the back body. It involves bending the elbows (so that the spiral has a directional way to grow through the arms) and an external rotation where our current top ribs and scapula are.
•    Stabilizing the beginning of the spiral here you can begin to open your arms and allow the inner spiral to start to express at the level of our current glenohumeral joint and the upper deltoids. This rotation continue about a third of the way down the humerus bone.
•    Below the deltoid the next spiral starts to develop – into an external rotation now – that passes through our current elbow and all the way through our current forearm to the hand.
The limb is developing through these smooth spirallic currents from our torso and outward and is more like a flipper than a fully developed arm. There is no bone at this point. It is important to follow this movement from the center through the periphery – toward the hands and fingers – as a directional movement that unfolds the arm buds into limbs.

anya purvottanasana beach

Explorations in Asana
•    This can be explored initially in seated or standing with the arms free to move.
•    Another good way to explore this is in constructive rest position on the floor with the arms open upward as if holding a big physioball. Slowly open your arms out wide on the floor following the embryological spirals as you move.
•    The same position (big physioball) can be taken at the wall in a quasi-utkatasana with the upper-back on the wall.
•    Continuing with the upper-back stabilized on the wall introduce garudasana-arms noticing how garudasana utilizes the embryonic spirals perfectly.
•    Standing postures using the development of the arms from the core to periphery in entering postures.
•    All of this can also be felt with layering on of the later developmental patterns that come in the first year of life on land: child’s posture, yield and push, hands and knees, downward dog, plank, and twisting child’s pose.
Weight bearing postures should have clear embryological spirals underneath everything that is done with the musculoskeletal system. This is a big missing link in yoga techniques that are being offered as therapies for stressed shoulder joints. Shoulder injuries are so common now and I believe that the embodiment of these spirals can be of tremendous help.