Class #4292

Arms and Shoulders

30 min - Class


Debora Kolwey offers restorative techniques for your arms and shoulders in this gentle Mat class. She soothingly guides you through various ways to mobilize and release these areas of your body while providing thoughtful imagery to enhance your sensations of relaxation. Take a moment of stillness at the end of class to seal in the work you've done and take your tranquility from the Mat out into the world.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket

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All right, now we're gonna take our focus a little bit more specifically to the shoulders and the arms. And obviously we never really separate our parts altogether but it's nice to have little bits that you can do if you're feeling particularly tense or locked up in an area, of course, knowing that all our parts are at least wanting to be in communication most of the time. So relaxing again, feeling your feet on the mat, the release of the spine, the pelvis, the shoulder girdle, the arms, softening in the back of the neck and the head. And now take your attention to your shoulder blades and imagine your shoulder blades could actually slide right below the surface of your skin. So breathing in and as you exhale, shrug up and allow the shoulder blades to slide up your rib cage and then take a breath at the top and exhale and shrugging, slide those blades back down and repeat that a few times, inhaling, exhaling, shrugging up, inhaling and exhaling, shrugging down.

It could be slow. It could be continuous, but there's this quality that there's a little bit of space under your skin fat and allowing those blades to glide and slide over the rib cage, up and down, and then begin to alternate. So as the one slides down the other shrugs up, come through center and reverse and notice how as you alternate the shrugging and the sliding, you might naturally allow your head to roll. So as the right slides down and your head rolls to the right, stay for a second, take a breath and notice as you begin to shrug the right one up it almost like a little ping pong paddle, knocks your head over to the left. And then as the left shrugs up, kind of knocks you over to the side and you begin to create now relationship between the arms, the shoulder blades, and you're releasing neck and head.

And then you might even notice some movement in the ribs. And even though we are saying we're primarily the arms and the shoulders, what kind of nice it is to make a connection into your neck and your head and the ribs and the spine. And you might actually even start to feel some kind of a connectivity down into the pelvis. And even though we haven't worked with the pelvis yet, it's good to know. It's good to know you're connected.

Good. Let that go. Maybe even a little faster, a little freer, feeling the hands, moving on the carpet, back, forth, back and forth, letting your breath just flow smoothly with the movement and then come back, shake it out and then pick your knees up and place your hands, the palms of your hands on the tops of your knees and let the weight of the legs be held in your arms and then take this back and forth movement, walking your knees back and forth and feel how if you let that go, that the movement of the legs and the hips is also going to generate a response all the way up through the shoulders, the shoulder blades, and again, the neck and the head, and just enjoy that rhythm freedom, the communication between your parts, and we'll come back to hips and legs at another time. But for now, just let your legs drop, okay. Take your right arm now up toward the ceiling, directly above the shoulder this is a variation on Eve Gentry's "Puppet arm series." So the image here is that you are like a marionette puppet. The puppeteer is above you and they have your fingers attached to the string.

So you breathe in and the puppeteer pulls on the string and your shoulder lifts off the mat and then they let you go and it drops down, so up and down, and you might listen for this little plop, plop sound on the carpet or your mat. So you reach plop, reach plop, reach plop, and then stay with the feeling of the weightedness of the arm through your sleeve, back down into the back of the shoulder, on the mat, and then begin to do stirs. So if you've done the nose circles, there's a little bit of a relationship here to that, that idea that even though you're doing adjuster, that that reaches, it has a reach quality out through the fingertips out in space. You're not pulling yourself off of your own integrity. So you feel the weight of the back of the shoulder and the other end of your arm bone on the ground.

And you can picture a circle on the mat. And even though of course, you see your fingers and you can see the circle that you're drawing in space, you can allow your attention to also release back into the support of a larger part of your body on the ground and feel the ground come up to meet you. And like all of the circles that we do, see if you can hone in to a smoothness and a fullness. So if you have stress in there, if you have restriction maybe some popping or clicking, let it get smaller and softer and deeper. And if you really have an issue there in your shoulder, you may end up barely moving at all.

But the feeling inside you, the sense that you have doesn't have to be limited. The sense of it can be deep and full and rich. Even if what is perceived from the outside is not large. Then when you're satisfied go the other direction, it can appear to the outside small and still have quite a satisfying feeling for you or it could be bigger, but try always to make it smooth and completely round and then come to the top and just let your arm fall, and take a moment and feel the difference. If any, from one side of your body, to the other, and then take the left arm up, reaching the fingertips.

The marionette puppeteer has you by the tips of the fingers and they gently pull the string and then let you go and a pull and a pull up, and a reach and a release, and a reach and a release, and then feel into that circle that depth behind you on the floor, the same time that you can see the tips of your fingers reaching out in space and begin to stir your shoulder. You can keep your eyes open if that helps, you can close them, take your time. It's really interesting to be able to both make gestures in space, to reach out, to communicate, to extend ourselves, but at the same time to stay home within ourselves, in our own structure, our own core, core of our being, and then reverse your circle, smooth and round. You can kind of think of the bullseye in the middle of the circle. Maybe you're picturing the circle out in space.

Maybe you're picturing the circle on the ground. And when you feel ready that you've done a nice, smooth, full circle in both directions, pause, and just let the arm drop, and then take both arms up to the ceiling. And we're gonna take the puppet feeling again. So the right arm reaches and drops and the left reaches and drops and right, and drop, and drop in up, and down and up and down, but now in and up and down, and then see if you can just let that go, let it go, let it go, let it go and feel the movement inside your body. Feel the subtle movement in your neck and head and your pelvis and maybe feel it all the way down to your feet.

And then just let them go. Maybe you can send some bubbling energy all the way through your body, some worth a buzz energy moving through your body. And it's fun. It's fun to do that, sometimes makes you smile. So now we'll take the arms back up again.

And the image that I like for this one is that underneath my shoulders, there's a saucer. And it's as if the arm bone, my arm is in the saucer, like a teacup. And so the saucer is balanced and you know what that looks like. There's the outer rim and then the inner rim where the tea cup sets, and now stir both. And it's as if you're stirring lumps of sugar in your tea, and you want that sugar to dissolve.

You don't wanna slosh it, slosh the tea outside the tea cup. Do you wanna wait and really feel that the entire sugar cube has dissolved in the liquid of the tea and then begin to allow your arms to float down towards your waist. And as you do so, it's as if the tea cup is tilting forward. And now you are kind of spilling your tea down by your legs but only take your arms as low as you can without tipping your saucer. The tea cup is gonna tilt, but the saucer remains.

And then you think, "Oh my gosh, I've spilled my tea. I need to pick the tea cup back up," and write it and then bring the arms back up until your teacup is centered in its saucer. And now begin to take your arms overhead. And now you're tipping your tea cup in the saucer and the tea is pouring behind you, keep the weight of the saucer only allowing the tea cup to tilt but not letting the saucer tilt, and then focus on the teacup itself as you begin to bring it back into the center of the saucer and writing that teacup so that it finds its way right into the middle. Now let's take our arms out to the side.

And now the teacup is tilting sideways and the tea is pouring off to the sides of your chest. Keeping the saucers steady. It's interesting how heavy the arms can feel. Feet on the ground, pelvis relaxed, jaw relaxed, back of head relaxed, breathing into the spaciousness of your chest and the release of your arms and shoulders. Maybe going back to that twinkling polished central channel and then begin to bring your teacups and arms back up to the center until you feel that the teacup is settled.

Beautiful, relax your arms down by your sides for a moment and then take your hands together and straight up toward the ceiling and begin to just shift your arms back and forth across your chest. Not too big, notice if you go to the left, the right hand starts to slide down towards your wrist. And then as you come back up, the palm of your hands meet again in the middle. Hope I said that right. I am going to the right side now and the left palm slides down toward the wrist.

And then as you lift your right arm up the hands come, and this time allow yourself to roll all the way your left side, arrange your legs in such a fashion that's comfortable for you. And this is a variation on Eve's "Feel good arms." So now begin to slide the palm and I'm having to be a little bit careful because of the microphone but for you really have your head settling into the ground. You may notice that my head lifts a little but I'm only doing that for the microphone, for you really let your head rest and have it padded so that you can really let the side of your face and your cheek relax. So as you begin to slide, feel that gentle movement back and forth from the hand to the arm, to the scapula. And then the next time you slide your hand back towards your Palm, keep the contact of your hand across your arm.

Slide that hand over your chest, open to the side, allow that to shift your weight. And as the weight shifts over to the left, bend to the right, excuse me, the left elbow, and begin to slide your hand down the other side, sliding and reaching and rolling through the arm and the shoulder blade, rolling back and forth, and then slide keeping contact with your left hand on the inner surface of your right arm. Allow that weight to shift through your upper body rolling you back and forth. So let's just do that simple version a few times, keeping contact with your hand on your own arm, chest. Feel the sternum, come across to the shoulder, over to the other side.

One more time, releasing as far as it feels nice, head and neck relaxed, sliding your hand across your chest, and this time stay on the left and make a circle of the right arm overhead and then release across to the right and circle the left arm overhead and release across. So it's your call. It's really fun to choreograph the combination of the circling. You could take the circles overhead. You could come back through the middle.

It's a different kind of pie, isn't it? But just play with it, play with making the circles. You could go back and forth without completely making yourself go to each side, just for the fun, just for the relaxing of your brain. What happens naturally in your body, allowing yourself to open, roll, sequence, and make connections between your hands, your arms, your shoulders, your shoulder girdle, your spine, your sacrum, your neck, and your head, and then lie for a moment and just feel the warmth. Maybe you feel more connected to the earth, more open to the ceiling, and then go ahead and roll up onto your side and come onto all fours.

And I found that the exact position somewhat for comfortability depends on your proportions. I have a relatively short trunk. And so I like to pretty much have my hands under my shoulders and knees, pretty close to hips. I've noticed that for some people who have a longer torso, they like to open that up a little bit. So you have to play with it for your on comfortability.

And I know that some people, this is not so comfortable in the wrist. So obviously you can make a fist or do what you need to do. I also find that the more I can lift up internally, then the weight isn't falling into my joints so much. So for the arms and the shoulders, we're gonna take the lion drinking variations. So for this one, you're actually gonna point your fingers toward one another and take a breath.

And as you exhale, at the same time that your elbows begin to bend to the side, think of drawing the shoulder blades closer together. So there's three things happening which is kind of interesting. The blades come together, the elbows widen and you can almost feel like you're pulling your fingers toward one another and you bring your face down toward the mat. That's the drink. You take a breath.

You're the lion at the river. And then on your next exhale, press the ground away. And as the elbows come towards straight, allow the shoulder blades to widen. And it's almost like they're gonna fall off your arms down to the floor and feel the breastbone, the sternum disappearing up in towards your spine and allow the back of the neck to go and take a breath into that space in the upper and middle back. And then on your next exhale, bending the elbows, drawing the blades toward one another and bringing your pie faced down to the mat.

Take a breath. And as you exhale simultaneously sliding those shoulder blades apart, pressing the ground away, feeling this deep, deep hollow up into your chest. One more time, breathe in and exhale. So again, bringing a little bit more density, a little bit more muscularity into our shapes that we've been playing with. Take a breath and exhale, sliding those shoulder blades right off, almost like they're gonna fall off the outside of your arm.

You lost your teacup, and then bringing the fingertips straight ahead threading the needle, breathe in, open the right arm out to the side, adjust so that you feel like you can really use the push off of the left arm. Try not to make the motion happen in the pelvis and the waste area, but as much as you can, open through the ribs, the shoulder blades, the arms, the neck, and the head, stay for an extra breath, release up and then exhale threading the needle, taking the back of your hand all the way down. And if you can, bring your ear all the way to the floor. Eve would have us just completely let go here. Let it all go seeping into the earth.

Take another breath. And on your next exhale, unfurl, use the push off the bottom arm to help you open the chest up to the ceiling, opening through the top arm, the chest, reaching to space. One more, exhale release down. Allow the ear, the cheek, the head, the neck, the shoulders, everything, let's go for a moment. And then let's just come back to the center, reconnect to your quadropad, take a breath, exhale the other side, all opening the chest, using the bottom hand, arm, shoulder, shoulder blade, sternum, opposite shoulder blade, arm reach.

And again, on this side, I'm not gonna be going all the way down because of the microphone, but if you can totally allow your ear and your cheek, even let that top elbow just go, come into a little puddle and then take a breath. Up to the ceiling, opening as best you can trying to limit the movement in the bottom part of your body and expand the upper body and then release through letting it go. Maybe somebody that you like comes over and gently tugs on your bottom fingers. And then just come back to the center and come up to kneeling, interlace your fingers all the way to the webbing, reach forward, turning your hands inside out and then lift those arms straight up overhead as best you can, take a moment. It feels kind of nice to bend the elbows again and then extend, pressing a little bit down through the shins and the feet to give you the ground.

Remembering the sacrum entail, releasing down to allow a lift of the spine, and then just take a breath and expand, reach, open. Have the descending energy of the lower body helps support you in the ascending energy of the upper body and then release the arms out to the side. Remember which finger or thumb you had on top and switch it. If you don't remember, it's probably just the one that feels awkward, and then interlace, turn the hands inside out, take a breath and reach up to the ceiling. If it feels good to you to have this intermediary stage of bending the elbows and then reaching it up, feel how it picks you right above the sides of the hips all the way down to the ground and then just release.

And then let's come to sitting for a moment. If you have your cushion nearby or your chair, and let's take a moment and just remember the seven points of posture, six or seven, depending on how you look at it from our sitting. So again, the lower body, the legs, the pelvis releasing the weight down, feeling the earth below. So you have your legs, your pelvis, your feet. You're sitting in a chair.

The feet are down on the ground, allowing the arms that we've just worked to release out of the shoulders. And then when you bend your elbows and place your hands on your thighs, feel the support of the legs there for the weight of your hands and your arms. Feel the spine lengthening up the back, release the skull back, polishing your central channel with your breath, allowing the forehead to be soft, the eyes to be soft. The jaw, the neck, the breath can continuously course through your body, flow through your body. Allow the gaze to be slightly lowered.

Take a few deep breaths. Be here, be here now. And just over and over come back to a sense of yourself, the environment, the external space, the internal space and how we managed to make those transitions moment to moment in our day, from the in to the out, whatever it is, however we're gonna handle it. You always have this structure to come back to, and your breath. Okay.

Mindful Movement: Moving Meditation

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Nov 27, 2020
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Arms and Shoulders
Debora Kolwey
30 min
The Pilates Center
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1 person likes this.
Thank you so much Debora - I loved this. You are wonderful. I have so many of my clients holding horrible tension in their shoulders. It is so good to take time to think, feel and release. Boo ( Pilates Teacher in England) Love to you from England. xxxx
1 person likes this.
Hi Debora from our "lock-down" in Austria. I needed all of your praxis so much. Thank you. I`ll practice it the next weeks, may be month. I knew a lot of the movements, and renewed them with your kind voice and your "wunderbare" movements. All the best to you. Evi
Debora Kolwey
Thank you for letting me know.  I hope for folks to feel better!
1 person likes this.
thank you I feel so good now
Cynthia G
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much for the class. These are gems to return to over and over.  So appreciated. 
I've been doing a lot of laptop working and this has been so helpful to unwind. So beautifully described I could work with my eyes closed. Thank you.
1 person likes this.
Lovely Shoulder balance workout thank you  from New Zealand x
Lina S
1 person likes this.
I've really enjoyed your class. It felt like a meditation in motion. You mentioned the name of some of the exercises (e. g. lion drinking variation). I teach Pilates and I teach stretching. I find these moves particularly suited to a stretching class. Do you have a reference to suggest me?

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