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Shoulder Roll - impinging nerves / circulation

Raaamil
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Shoulder Roll - impinging nerves / circulation

Hello dear community,

I am into the method for roughly a month now and I still have quite some issues with the shoulder roll.

After performing a shoulder roll my arms/shoulders get into a position which seem to cut off circulation to or from the arms. It feels the same as when having a tight rubberband around the arm - I start to feel the pulse very strongly in hand and especially the fingers. Additionally the shoulders start to feel heavy - lifting the arms takes more effort (it seems like the muscles get into a mechanically disadvantageous position somehow but it should be the other way around doesn`t it?) Also I often get a tingling feeling in my hand/fingers. Those issues generally arise on both sides but the effect seems to be worse on the left side for whatever reason - most likely this is not too relevant for now.

Do you have any ideas on why this is happening? Having visited the Foundations Course I am pretty confident that my techinque is okay, but maybe I get a subtlety wrong every time. And do you have any advice on how to deal with those difficulties?

 

Kind regards,

Ramil

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08/26/2018 - 4:08am

Hi Ramil,

I suggest you watch this video and practice the shoulder roll along with Esther. I am wondering if you are trying too hard and stretching too much and muscles are spasming a little? Better to do it gently and often, opening up your chest little by little. You don't want to be doing something that is causing circulation to cut off so you do need to change what you are doing... 

Rachel Margaret, Gokhale Method teacher

Raaamil
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Hi Rachel!

Thanks for the reply. The shoulder roll still confuses me quite a lot. Sometimes it works out fine, sometimes it works out fine only on one side and sometimes it does not work at all.

I have the feeling that it depends on the level of relaxiaton I have in my upper back. Is that possible? I very often have very tight muscles in the back - spasms really. Is it possible that this interfers with the shoulder roll somehow?

Kind regards

Ramil

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Hi Ramil,

Yes, tight back muscles and spasms would very much interfere with the shoulder roll. Most of the time we want the muscles in our back to be relaxed, so I think that is the more important thing to be working on right now, to relax the back muscles.

I remember that you said that you have done the Foundations Course recently - do you remember how much the anteversion of the pelvis affects the curvature of the upper back? If you are standing, sitting or walking with a tucked pelvis this will increase the curvature of your upper back (and then also increasing muscle tension holding you up while you are curved forward). Reread the early part of the Stacksitting chapter, pages 70-73. Practice your stacksitting with your pelvis anteverted, your imaginary tail out behind you, which allows the bones to stack well and  your back muscles to relax. If you are stacksitting well your relaxed chest will be able to expand and rise with each breath.

Two other things that can help you with this are the bolster exercise and using the Gokhale Method roller. Do you remember the bolster exercise from your Foundations Course? It would help you to set up a bolster of some kind with extra cushions (so your shoulders and head are slightly raised like a ramp) and practice lying on the bolster and wriggle down until your bottom is gently hanging over the end of the bolster (without your back swaying). Do this a number of times a day, no more than 5 minutes at a time. This is teaching your body to get used to the anteverted pevis position with a curve at L5S1, the lowest part of your back that can bend, with the rest of your back tall and straight. The reason this would be particularly good for you to do is that by lying down hopefully you can allow all your back to relax as you are doing this, so you are teaching your body to get used to the anteverted pelvis position and teaching your body what this feels like with your back relaxed. The more you have an anteverted pelvis all the time the less your upper back will want to curve forward. The other thing we talked about in a different thread is using the Gokhale Method roller to help release your upper back if it is kind of fixed into place into a forward curve.

So yes, before focusing too much on the shoulder roll I think you need to focus first on your pelvic anteversion, always having your imaginary tail out behind you, and on having the rest of your back tall and straight and relaxed. I think once you have got these things happening the shoulder roll will not be difficult and will feel nice to do.

Rachel

Raaamil
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Hi Rachel!

Thank you so much for your detailed answer! Thank you so much for your time!

Yes I do remember the correlation between the tucked pelvis and the rounded back - that picture of the two different horseman is hard to forget!

Ok - I have been practicing the Stacksitting so far. I will continue doing that. It is true that sometimes I reach a point of decent relaxation as well as somewhat straight posture - and breathing feels easier. I am definetely still neither very straight nor very relaxed, but I guess this will take its time.

I am wondering about Stretchsitting in connection to tight back muscles: During Stretchsitting there is not the goal to Stacksit at the same time right? At least I seem to stack worse in total and I get tension in the upper back / after a short period of time.

Regarding the bolster exercise: That is something I have been neglecting so far. One reason for that is that I was always ending up in a sway (ribcage jutting out) and it did not feel comfortable. Maybe I was going to far over the edge of the bolster? As it seems to be a very important exercise for me I will definitely look into it again. Maybe I am going to ask a question regarding this exercise in another thread in the next days or weeks.

Regarding the roller: Do I understand it correctly that this is just an additional help which will only bring any results if I stop tightening my back muscles all over again every day? Because so far the results with the roller have been miniscule - and I am wondering whether the reason is that I just get too much accumulated tension over the day.

Thank you so much for all your advice! I am sure it will prove very helpful! It definitely already opened my eyes to focus more on the anteversion and relaxed back muscles instead of being frustrated with the shoulder roll.

Kind regards,

Ramil

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Hi Ramil,

Three things that might help you not end up with a swayed back when doing the bolster exercise:

  • Firstly make sure you are pulling your shirt up at the back so that friction from your skin can help your back stay attached to the bolster as you wriggle down
  • Yes, going too far over the edge of the bolster cause your back to sway, so go back and start again and wriggle down slowly. As your bottom just starts to drop over the edge of the bolster, keeping your back on the bolster briefly your bottom a little to let it drop a little further over the edge while leaving your back flat on the bolster.
  • If you still feel that your back is swaying, add more pillows for the top of your back and head. You want to end up with pillows in a bit of a ramp starting somewhere in your mid-upper back, well below your shoulders (and since you wriggle down on the bolster you may need to bring the pillows with you or start with them even further down). You want them stacked in a ramp shape so that your head is not pushed forward by the pillows

You can use a rolled up soft yoga mat as a bolster, and by using a lowish bolster it is also less likely that you will drop too far over the edge and cause a sway in your back. It's definitely worth persisting with getting the bolster exercise set up so that it is comfortable for you. It should not hurt and you should not feel swayed, but it may feel strange if you are not used to a curve in your back at L5S1, the lowest part of your back that can bend. Feeling strange or weird is okay as that shows you are doing something differently. Just don't do anything that hurts you.

What we want is for your body to learn the j-spine shape as new normal, with your imaginary tail out behind you and the rest of your spine able to stack up tall and straight without needing any muscle tension to hold it there. This is why practising the bolster exercise and stacksitting are good things for you to focus on. In stacksitting (or any other time), if you feel your back is swaying remember to use the rib anchor (see page 84 in the book). And no, we are not stacksitting when we are stretchsitting. I think for now you should focus on the stacksitting, getting your behind behind you (remember to use a soft wedge to help keep your pelvis anteverted without you having to use muscle tension for that).

The roller can be helpful if the upper back is kind of fixed into place in a curve, it can help loosen it up and allow it to change shape as you gently start doing things differently. If you don't feel that your upper back is fixed into a curved shape, perhaps don't use the roller so much but just focus more on the bolster exercise and stacksitting. We don't want you to need to use muscle tension in your back when sitting or standing. That's why I'm suggesting you focus more on anteverting your pelvis, allowing your behind to stay out behind you (remember the little zigzag squat / potty squat when standing, leaving the knees and groin a little soft and leaving your behind out behind you?) and the rest of your back to stack up tall and straight without needing to use muscle tension to hold it there, the j-spine.

It might also be helpful for you to put a little weight on your head (a small bag of rice or something similar - the Gokhale Method head cushion is only 21 oz / 600g) when stacksitting or standing. Just pushing up against a little weight can help your neck and upper back alignment. Read about this on page 143-144, although rereading the whole chapter on tallstanding would be useful.

Keep going Ramil! Bit by bit, by making little changes in how you are standing and sitting every day can gradually make big changes in your posture and overall wellbeing. There's a great picture on page 27 of the book showing someone's gradual posture transformation over time.

Rachel

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