Am I the only one who finds that sometimes detailed instructions on how to get yourself into a pose sound contradictory? For example, I was checking out the Yoga Journal’s page on how to do Bridge pose and came across the following.
The video suggests that you “Tuck the shoulders underneath your chest” when you lift up into the pose, while the description says that you should “broaden the shoulder blades”. The curious thing here is that you cannot do both. Tucking the shoulders underneath adducts your shoulders moving the shoulder blades closer together. If you try to widen the space between the shoulder blades, you will move the arms apart, which means that the arms will end up next to your body, not underneath. So if you are asking your students to do both they might find it rather confusing and frustrating.
So which way is correct then? Well, it depends on what it is that you are trying to accomplish, and it has very little to do with whether the student is a “beginner” or “advanced”. In my tradition we usually do not tuck the arms under but instead focus on widening the space between the shoulder blades for several reasons:
1. Tucking the arms under can create a lot of upper back tension.
2. Tucking the arms under (if one is able to do it) helps the chest to lift higher, but it also means that it creates a stronger pull on the neck and the areas around the collarbones, which can be too much for many students.
With that said, you COULD make Bridge pose one of your core poses and spend some time working on it. You could even tuck the shoulders underneath, if your goal is to contract the muscles of the upper back, actively stretch the chest and the back of the neck. Then afterwards you would need to spend sometime compensating for the intensity of the pose, stretching the upper back, mobilizing the neck and loosening up the shoulders.
– What it is that we are trying to accomplish;
– Where the pose is within the sequence;
– Whether it is used as one of the core poses or a compensation posture;
– What came before it and what comes after;
– Who you are teaching it to.
All those factors come into play when we design a sequence and should be considered by the teacher. It might seem daunting (am I supposed to teach the pose differently every time?!), but in reality it helps to keep you engaged, makes your instruction fresh and interesting AND gets your students more involved and present with what they are doing.
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