If the title caught you off guard, you may be thinking of firearms. Instead, think of the connotation of bicep muscles as ‘guns’. It is true that Aerial Yoga has the ability to strengthen your arms as well as shoulder, back, and gripping muscles. When you position yourself around the fabric, you have the ability to use compound muscles. This is the equivalent of doing multiple machines at the gym.
Understanding the components to arm/shoulder movements can help you get the most out of your yoga class. Learning to work your underused muscles and calm your overused muscles can improve posture and reduce chances of neck and shoulder injuries. The proper use of muscles can also reduce soreness after doing any activity where your arms are over your head. Your yoga teacher might cue you to “ move your shoulders down from your ears”. They are probably trying to get the typically over-used Levator Scapula muscle to release and to lower the elevated shoulders. This muscle attaches to the side of your neck vertebrae and to the middle side of your shoulder blades. Along with the upper Trapezius (‘traps’), it is the one that causes pain in your neck and shoulders if they are often shrugged from tension, computer work, or poor posture.
Balanced muscles around the scapulas (shoulder blades) are also essential when moving our arms. To move your arm over your head you must have an upward rotation at the shoulder blade. The specific muscles that do this action are the Serratus Anterior and the lower Trapezius. You can probably guess these muscles might often be underused. They need cueing. Whether on your matt, in the swing, or in your daily activities, proper engagement of these muscles also keep you from wearing your shoulders like earrings. Their symbiotic movement helps to prevent shoulder instability and neck compression.
Our practice of yoga already gives us useful and keen awareness of our bodies. Ask your teacher to show you how to feel the engagement of the scapula muscles so you can prevent injury, improve your posture, and contribute to your impressive guns!