Teach Your Shoulders to Stay Out of Your Ears with Crocodile Pose

crocodile poseCrocodile pose, or Makarasana, is a great way to challenge scapular stability while deeply opening the upper thoracic spine. This is very important. Frequently in yoga, when we do thoracic extension, the shoulders need to be in neutral.

Think about Sphinx pose. If our shoulder blades couldn’t stay in neutral, we’d be a crumpled heap with our shoulders up to our ears.

Yet, in life, this is what often happens. We work, type on the keyboard, drive our cars, whatever and, as we progress, the upper back gets rounded and the shoulders slide up to our ears. All of a sudden, we have shoulder earrings.

The worst part about our shoulder earrings is that, unless we do exercises specifically to retrain our shoulder blade/thoracic spine relationship, we’ll end up with the same problem day after day. This is where Crocodile pose comes into play. Strengthening the scapular stabilizers and thoracic extensors will help change your body’s bad habits.

Prep for Crocodile Pose

  1. Use ujjayi breathing.
  2. Begin on your stomach.
  3. Ideally, your legs should be parallel and together. When your legs are in parallel, your kneecaps will be flat on the mat. If you cannot keep your legs together and in parallel or if you have low back or SI joint issues, put some space between your legs. It is essential that your legs are parallel. Also, please be sure to honor your body; don’t put yourself into any situations that cause pain.
  4. Broaden your collarbones, and stack your hands so that your right fingers are on top of your left fingers.
  5. Turn your head and rest your right cheek on top of your right fingers.
  6. Hold here for 5 breaths.
  7. Bring your head back to center.
  8. Switch your hands so that your left fingers are on top of your right fingers.
  9. Turn your head and rest your cheek on top of your left fingers.
  10. Hold for 5 breaths.

Crocodile Pose

I recommend you complete the prep for Crocodile pose before practicing the first one. It’s not necessary as you practice the pose subsequent times, though.

  1. Bring your head back to center.
  2. Reach your arms straight in front of you.
  3. Inhale your belly button up to your spine (to support your low back), bend your elbows, lift your head and chest off the mat, and let your hands cradle your face. This pose reminds me of something kids do when they watch TV on the floor.
  4. As you hold here, work on keeping your belly button to your spine and letting your heart rotate forward.
  5. Inhale to lengthen, and exhale to soften. Let your sternum (breastbone) rotate a little more with each breath.
  6. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
  7. On an exhale, return your hands to a stacked position, and rest your forehead on top of your hands.
  8. You should repeat the lift 2 or 3 times.

Crocodile Pose Video

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Here is a video for visual learners.

Can you feel your heart rotate forward when you do Crocodile pose? Let us know what you think about Crocodile pose in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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