Simply put – in order to stay healthy and feel good, your body needs to move. It moves in several different ways and there is terminology for each of these kinds of movements. For today, I’ll explain complementary movements called “flexion” and “extension.”
Starting with your arm by your side, raise it up toward the front of your body as if you were going to wave to a friend across the street. What happens in your shoulder during this motion is called flexion – decreasing the angle of the bones in the limb around the joint.
Starting with your arm by your side and without bending your elbow, move it past the back of your body as if you were passing a note to a friend sitting in back of you during French class (am I the only one who did that in high school?). What happens in your shoulder during this motion is called extension – the bone to bone at the shoulder joint angle increases.
Why should you care?
For starters, it is always fun to learn anatomy vocabulary because it is novel for most of us. As adults, we don’t often get the chance to learn a lot of new and not-heard-before words. We mostly encounter words and spellings that we are used to – how boring. Also…you need to be doing more extension…I promise you! Unless you are going to CrossFit or physical therapy 4 days a week or more, you are not getting adequate extension. This lack of extension movement can seriously weaken your trapezius muscle group, rhomboids, and serratus anterior. In practical terms, your neck is going to hurt, your shoulder might hurt, and your upper back is going to hurt.
Great yoga poses for shoulder extension include:
inverted table pose (this video is a little bit silly, but I like it because it does a good job of showcasing the pose and the music nice)
Plow pose halasana (do NOT do this pose if you have cervical spine issues)