Home / Articles / #7 February 2014 / Alexey Kiselev "Methods of Universal Yoga for the arms. The anatomy of a shoulder joint"

Alexey Kiselev "Methods of Universal Yoga for the arms. The anatomy of a shoulder joint"

Introduction: The evolution of asanas

An ancient text about yoga – “The Patanjali Yoga Sutras” (dated, according to various sources from 3 000 B.C. to 4 00 A.D.) does not talk much about asanas. In the 2-29 sutra asanas are mentioned as one on the eight steps of development on the path of yoga. And the 2-46 sutra gives a definition «sthira-sukham asanam» which means «Asana is a stable and comfortable (position)». That position had to be done in order to study and perfect your mind with the help of concentration and meditation techniques.

Another book on yoga, the “Hathha Yoga Pradipika”, written in approximately 15th century A.D. states that before starting meditation practices, a yogi has to cleanse the body and its elements. For these purposes the book gives a wide range of various techniques. The shloka 1-17 says: « As a result of asana practice, a man gains stability of body and mind, freedom from disease, flexibility of limbs and lightness in the body». This means that in this period asanas were already used for the purification of the body and the support of its active state. This book mostly describes asanas in the sitting and lying down on the back positions.

In the book "Eighty-four Asanas in Yoga" a Surver of Traditions" one can find illustrations from the work on yoga «Hathharatnavali» dated 17th century A.D. (see chapter 4.1.1) which include more images with asanas which develop the flexibility of arms.

In the 20th century yoga books, the «Yoga Dipika» for example, written by B.K.S. Iyengar, there is a description of several hundred asanas. Standing asanas and inversions were introduced and added. Much attention is devoted to the asanas for the extremities of the body – arms, legs and the head. But there is much more asanas for the legs than for the arms. The same picture is seen in the other styles of yoga. But if we look at a human being as a whole system and asanas as a method of purification of the body on the physical and energetic levels (the work with the nadi chanels and marmas) we can assume that in order to reach a balanced condition, equal amount of time has to be devoted to all body parts!

The method of Universal Yoga by Andrey Lappa offers a variety of asanas for the arms, which included in the regular practice can restore the balance in the body. If one includes these asanas in his practice the feeling of development throughout the body will become more even after such practice.

About the joints

The joint connects together several bones. The shape of the joints may vary, but the most important joints of the body resemble simple mechanical systems. For example:

1. a sphere interacts with a socket: a mechanical ball-and-socket joint called the enarthrosis; that allows movement in all directions (shoulder and hip joints)

2. or two parts of a cylinder: a whole and an empty one – such joint only allows movement in one plane (for example ankle joint)

3. other forms of joints exist

The interaction of surfaces in a joint is more or less close. Such interaction is called congruence. For example:

Picture.2.1.1. Bone of the shoulder has low congruence
Picture.2.1.2. Hip joint has high congruence

It follows that the shoulder joint is designed as a hemisphere-the hollow – which is the most mobile type of a joint (along with the hip joint). But unlike the hip joint, it has low congruence which makes it the most mobile of all the joints in the human body.

Anatomy of the joints of the shoulder girdle

(partially the text and illustrations are taken from the book «Your Body» pp. 14, 60, 108-118 and the book «Upper Extremity, Physiology of the Joints» Vol.1, pp. 30-31)

A shoulder is a part of the arm from an elbow to the shoulder joint. People who are unfamiliar with anatomy usually apply this name to the shoulder (or the vane-shoulder) joint – the joint which attaches the bone of the shoulder to the shoulder blade.

When studying the work of the shoulder joint it is important to consider the following:

- Give a definition of the shoulder girdle.

- Remember that the shoulder is not just one joint like the hip, but it is an anatomic functional system, which creates the connection of the upper extremities and the torso.

More details about the shoulder girdle

Images of the bones making a shoulder girdle are given below. Black-and-white images are taken from the book "Your body." The color photos, taken from the site http://www.paulgrilley.com, show the real bone and their difference at different people. You can see that at a certain structure of the acromion, bending to an angle of 180 degrees (for example, in a  downward-facing dog position) or more than 180 degrees is difficult to execute.

The shoulder girdle (Picture Shoulder girdle) is a part of the skeleton which provides the attachment and support of the upper extremities. The shoulder girdle constitutes of the scapulas in the back, collar bones in the front and the brisket in the middle.
Clavicle (Picture is a pair small tubular bone of a shoulder girdle which has a form of the extended letter S. It is jointed by the external end with blade appendage (acromioclavicular joint), and by the internal end (sternum) - with sternum (sternoclavicular joint).
Shovel (Picture is a flat bone of a triangle shape with two edges (front and back), three angles and three rims. The lateral (external) department of an awn of a shovel is more strongly developed and passes into a humeral shoot, or acromion which is directed outwards and slightly forward bears at its forefront acromial articular surface for joint with the clavicle.
Sternum (Picture is a flat bone located in the front of the ribcage. The sternum consists of three parts: the handle of the sternum, the body of the sternum and the xiphoid process. The top of the handle of the sternum is attached to the clavicle.
Humeral bone (Picture – the bone of a shoulder. A long bone which can be divided into three parts: The upper end where you can find: The large (outside) and the small (on the external side) protuberances of the humerus. The deep muscles of the shoulder are attached to them. The head of the humerus (on the internal side) Spheroid articular surface which goes narrowing annularly – that is an anatomical cervix. The body resembles a shape of a cylinder in the top and a triangular shape in the context of the bottom. The lower end widens into the scapula which constitutes of joint surfaces connected with the bones of the forearm creating the elbow joint.

More details on the joints

It is often thought that a «shoulder» is a joint which connects the humeral bone and the scapula. This joint is known as the scapular-humeral or the shoulder joint. But the shoulder blade itself is a rotating platform connected with the sternum and the clavicle. Which gives us two additional joints:

  • acromiohumeral, between the scapular and the clavicle
  • clavisternomastoid, between the brisket and the clavicle.

In this way we see that the shoulder actually consists of the three joints which are connected with the important planes of sliding. These joints can be divided into two areas with different functions:


Acromiohumeral joint (Picture connects the two egg shaped surfaces located on the acromion and the outer end of the clavicle. The shape of the surfaces allows gliding, opening and closing of the angle which the two bones form.
Clavisternomastoid joint (Picture – the inner end of the clavicle resembles the form of a three sided prism. The inner plane of the prism is covered with the sternal articular surface which is concaved from front to back and bossed vertically. It intercommunicates with the first costal cartilage and the upper part of the sternum (the handle of the sternum), where the sternal articular is located but designed in an opposite way. Such design of the joint can be compared to a rider in the saddle as it allows movement in three planes. The movements which the clavicle can perform include alienation, approximation, ascendancy, decendancy and two rotations around its central axis.

Scapulohumeral system

Scapulohumeral or shoulder joint (Picture joint connects the head of the humeral bone with the glenoid cavity of scapula. Humeral bone is a long bone of the shoulder. Between these two articular surfaces the circumferential cartilage (cartilage cushion that holds the head of the humerus in the joint) is located. It is durable but may be easily deformed. The capsule is attached to the articular circumference and to the scapula and around the circumference of the head of the humeral bone. This capsule is strengthened by the ligaments. The stability of the shoulder is provided by deep muscles which create a form of «Active ligaments» also known as the «the cap of rotating muscles» or «the rotator cuff».

Kinesiology movements

Coordinate planes and axes

Picture Planes
Picture Coordinate axes and the neutral position of the body

There are hypothetical planes and axes that can be drawn inside the human body and any organ can be characterized according to those lines. There can be outlined three types of planes. (Picture

  1. One horizontal (lateral) plane, which is drawn parallel to the horizon line divides the body of a standing person vertically into the upper and lower parts.
  2. Two vertical planes:
    • one of them located parallel to the forehead – frontal- divides the body into the front and back parts.
    • the second is going from front to back (like a shooting arrow) – sagital – and divides the body into the right and left sides. If the sagital plane movers directly through the middle of the body it is then called a median or the middle (see the picture). It divides the body into two equal parts.

The axes (Picture drawn inside the human body in the same directions are named accordingly:

  1. Vertical (lateral and oriented alongside the body) goes downwards and is located on the intersection of the frontal and sagital planes.
  2. Frontal (transversal and oriented from right to left) is located in the horizontal plane and its direction is identical to the frontal plane.
  3. Sagital (located in the front to back direction) – can be found in the horizontal plane and its direction coincides the sagital plane.

These axes are used to characterize various movements in the joints.

Neutral position – the position of the body when the arms are hanging down alongside the body. Palms turned to the hips. (Picture.


Text and illustrations from the book «Your Body» pp. 104-107.

There can be distinguished two types of movements as the two functional areas may be moving separately or together. First of all the shoulder may move relative to the chest. (Pictures

Pictures Movement of the shoulder relative to the chest

А) ascent of the shoulder
B) descend of the shoulder
C) movement of the shoulder away from the spine (this movement takes the shoulder forward) – abduction
D) movement of the shoulder toward the spine – adduction
E) rotation of the sharp end of the scapula inward – inward movement of the peninsula
F) rotation of the sharp end of the scapula outward – outer movement of the peninsula

We can also observe the movement of the arm toward the scapula which make an effect (Pictures

Pictures The movement of taking the arm to the scapula

А) front: antepulsions ( application: when an angle greater than 90 degrees is created the arms start moving backwards, but still this movement is considered an antepulsion)
B) back: retropulsions, their amplitude is much less
C) out: abductions (when an angle greater than 90 degrees is created the arm starts moving inwards but still this movement is considered an abduction)

Inside: abductions (application: it can not proceed only in the frontal plane because the contact of the arm and the chest occurs).

D) with antepulsion
E) with retropulsion
F) inner rotation
G) outer rotation

When these movements reach significant amplitude they begin to involve the chest and the spine (Pictures

Pictures Movement of the chest and spine following the arms

A) antepulsion begins to lengthen the spine and «open» the chest
B) retropulsion requires to bend the spine and «close» the chest
С) abduction requires a side bend of the spine in an opposite direction, and «opening» of only one side of the chest where the movement is occurring
D) adduction requires a side bend of the spine in the direction of the arm which is moving, and the same side of the chest is «opening»
E) rotations require the rotation of the vertebral column

Understanding of directions of mobility in Universal Yoga

The following text is partially taken from the book «Yoga – the Tradition of Union» A. Lappa, p.30.

Picture 3.2.1. Directions of mobility in Universal Yoga

In Universal Yoga a simplified scheme of directions of mobility of the major joints is used. (Picture 3.2.1.).
A universal joint may have 8 major directions of movement:

     1) forward bend (lowering the extremity),

     2) backward bend (raising the extremity),

     3) bend to the right, taking the extremity to the side,

     4) bend to the left, moving the extremity toward the centre,

     5) rotation to the right, outer rotation,

     6) rotation to the left, inner rotation,

     7) lengthening,

     8) contraction.

The last two shall not be looked at in this article. Some joints may move in all directions listed above, and some can only move in limited directions.
The humeral joint has 6 stages of mobility.